(Mets Need To Loosen Up At The Plate And In The Field. Photo:David Pokress/Sportsday Wire)
Terry Collins said Thursday afternoon after his New York Mets team was swept by the Chicago Cubs at home, “We have to lighten it up around here.” And after another dismal loss, 6-1 to the Cubs, the Mets need more to lighten up.
They need offense, a bat, whether via the trade market or reaching out again to their minor league system where they have not been successful to get that help. Collins’ team was held once again to one run or less in three straight games to the Cubs, and of course you can’t win baseball games if runs don’t cross the plate.
The reality of not winning games is more evident when the pitching is not up to par, Jacob deGrom was ineffective, 5.1 innings and allowed four runs, three which were earned. Through the Month of June when the Mets scored the fewest runs of any team in the National League, deGrom was one of those effective starters in the Mets rotation that kept the team in games.
The difference this time, deGrom never gave the Mets a chance on the mound. But the right hander doubled in the third inning and Curtis Granderson drove him home giving the Mets’ their first run in 22.0 innings. And from there it has been the same and recurring script and a futile attempt to score runs.
So Collins sent a message in a brief post game message to his team. He wants them to stop pressing at the plate, and as he said, “Play the game with some fun , with some energy, with some enthusiasm.”
“Take a deep breathe, the season is not over,”said Daniel Murphy about an offense that does not want to wake up. Even his return to the lineup this week has not made a difference, and prior to Murphy going on the disabled list in early June, he was the Mets’ hottest hitter.
Murphy was one of the few talking in what has become a very dismal Mets’ clubhouse. Ruben Tejada, back at shortstop and playing everyday had his head down, and he should. It looked like he was on a tear at one point last month. But a 9-for his last 71 at bats, and a blunder on the base paths Tuesday night, may have him once again wondering how much longer he will have a job in New York.
And Tejada, as is the case with the lineup and minimal bench that is available to Collins, can’t provide the answers. This is baseball and a long season, but as each game passes there is a feeling that the road trip of six games to Los Angeles and San Francisco will further put the Mets into a deeper hole.
That hole of course is seeing them further away from the front running Washington Nationals, and diminishing a wild card position before the All-Star break and official end of the first half of games played.
“There is a sense when we get behind the ballgame is over,” Collins said. “We can’t let that happen.”
But in these three games with the Cubs, there was that sense of the game being over, The ninth inning Thursday afternoon Chicago reliever Travis Wood quickly disposed Darrell Cecilani on a groundout, got Murphy to fly out, and Lucas Duda struck out swinging.
And all it took was seven pitches by Wood to finish off the Cubs sweep in the ninth. No doubt that is why Collins said his team has a feeling the game is over when they are behind. Though each game, and even with a three game sweep over the Reds this past week, the issue was not scoring runs and in that series, New York scored four runs in the first two and broke out with seven in the finale.
Those seven runs were the highest total scored since a 10-8 win over the Atlanta Braves in mid-June. and there is every reason to believe that at some point the Mets will once again hit the ball and score runs. But when?
“They are so tense and so tight and so worried about making a big out instead of walking up there like they are going to get a hit,’ said Collins. And Michael Cuddyer missed his second straight game with a sore left knee, though that did not seem to matter because he has been hitting .125 with 12 strikeouts over his last 15- games.
The offense could get a boost if Cuddyer needs to be disabled. Number one draft pick Michael Conforto has been hitting with authority and getting on base at Double-A Binghamton, though GM Sandy Alderson has said it is too soon for the youngster to come aboard.
Truth is, the Mets need more than Conforto and the attempt to reinforce the lineup from Triple-A Las Vegas has not been effective. The reality is Collins is doing the best he can under the circumstances, and even with his team still in the postseason hunt there will be no moves to trade one of their young arms for a bat.
Again the pitching has kept them in games with this fading offense, and it would be the off-season if they indeed decide to trade either a deGrom, Zach Wheeler, a Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz, and in all probability that won’t happen. So it is wait and see and that is why Collins, who may be on thin ice with managing this team, is sending a message that this is reality.
“Lighten it up around here,” as the manager said, may be the message. But it all comes down to hitting and scoring runs and his team will try and do that Friday night against the Dodgers.