(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
The Mets started a ten-game homestand that likely will decide the fate of their season on Thursday night at Citi Field. The Los Angeles Dodgers are here for a four-game series to open it up, followed by three with the San Diego Padres, and then a three-game set with the Washington Nationals to close it out.
The Mets came off a six-game road trip in which they lost four of the six to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals. The Nationals series was particularly dispiriting, as Matt Harvey was lit up on Monday night and Bobby Parnell coughed up a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday afternoon, in what turned into a 4-3 loss. Parnell is one of the longest-tenured Mets, one of the faces of this pathetic era, along with Daniel Murphy, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who they can just never get rid of; and Jon Niese.
The loss on Wednesday hurt because, if they won, they would have been just 1 game behind the Nationals instead of 3. Instead, they lost a game that they should have won and it could be a definite turning point for both clubs.
This ten-game homestand comes just at the point last year’s season began to nosedive, when the San Francisco Giants came in and took three out of four games in late July/early August. In that series, they split the first two games, Madison Bumgarner shut out the Mets on a Sunday afternoon, and then the Giants pulled out a see-saw game to close it out. The Mets were never the same.
Mets seasons always seem to start out well, especially this year with that 11-game winning streak that sent their fans into a frenzy. They usually hang in until the All-Star break, and then gradually tail off into irrelevance by Labor Day.
It does not appear that they will break that trend this season, considering the anemic lineup they continue to send out there every night.
The lineup the Mets sent out on Thursday night to face Clayton Kershaw was an embarrassment. The thing that stood out was that John Mayberry Jr., hitting .170 with 3 home runs and 9 RBIs, was hitting cleanup, followed by Michael Campbell, hitting a tad better, at .179, with 3 homers and 17 RBIs. The only time sub-.200 guys hitting four/five is the first couple months of the season; to have this occur in late July is absurd and really makes one question how serious they are about winning.
This is the second time this week Mets Manager Terry Collins has put them in the heart of the lineup, as Mayberry and Campbell hit fifth and sixth on Monday in Washington. Sure, the lineup is depleted, with Michael Cuddyer out of action for most of the week with a knee injury and likely to join the ranks of the disabled list with long-time members David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud, but let’s be real, not like Cuddyer was hitting at all anyway.
The Mets were no-hit for the first six innings on Thursday night by Kershaw, who barely broke a sweat. In the 7th, Curtis Granderson and Wilmer Flores got singles, so it was two on and one out for their .170 cleanup hitter. Mayberry meekly struck out, and then Campbell hit a dribbler to short to end the inning. The fans booed vociferously and who could blame them. They should have demanded a refund for watching this.
Then after that disastrous duo was Lucas Duda in the six spot, who is having a pretty pathetic year, with absolutely no follow-up to his 30-homer season in 2014. He is hitting just .236 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs. Mets Manager Terry Collins sounds like a broken record talking about how he is going to break out, but at this point, they are well past the halfway point of the season, so there’s not much time left. Duda’s night on Thursday was marked by him getting picked off of first base, funny considering they would never expect him to steal.
How do they expect to keep their fans excited? If you want to show you are a serious contender, they have to make a move of some kind for a legitimate slugger, like the Pirates did on Thursday acquiring Aramis Ramirez.
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson continues to be stubborn when it comes to bringing up 2014 first-round draft choice Michael Conforto. The Mets under Alderson have always stressed never rushing guys up and them putting in their time in the minors, but at some point, they have to be all-in on a season, or else fans will stop getting excited about this team and being convinced of these endless promises of when they will be serious about contending. Fans eventually will stop coming to Citi Field, like they did in the ’90s, and the fans sent such a message then that the team’s slogan in 1998 was “Show Up At Shea!”
Mets Manager Terry Collins said after Thursday’s 3-0 loss about them adding somebody to help this putrid lineup, “I say away from this stuff. I think it’s my job, it’s my job, it’s too easy for me to point fingers anyway, and point fingers and say we need a guy here, so I don’t do that. What I’m gonna do is try and figure out is who’s going to play tomorrow.”
Maybe Collins doesn’t think about them acquiring anybody because he knows Alderson will never go get him a top-flight hitter, so why bother wishing for it to happen and be disappointed.
What’s strange about the Mets is they are so close, yet so far away they are in the playoff race. In the wild-card race, they are 5 1/2 behind the Pirates (54-40), 2 1/2 behind the Cubs (51-43), and 2 behind the Giants. The difference is those teams are legitimate contenders with tremendous pitching and hitting. The Giants have won the World Series three of the last five seasons, the Pirates have made the playoffs the past couple years, and the Cubs are far more well-rounded than the Mets.
The homestand ends on August 2nd against the Nationals, and by that time the deadline will have passed. Will that be the time the Mets can officially say “wait till next year”?