(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
These are some unpredictable times for the New York Mets. What once was bad, has been good, and vice versa.
What vaulted the Mets to their current late-season, semi-comfortable spot atop the National League Eastern Division standings, and what had kept them from being in an even better position have suddenly switched roles of late.
While manager Terry Collins was pleased to see the former, he’s not overly concerned about the latter.
It was the Mets’ largely stellar play at Citi Field through nearly three-quarters of their home schedule which had masked their previously glaring problems on the road, as New York surged past the heavy pre-season division favorite Washington Nationals while taking as much as a 6½-game lead in the NL East.
As one of the best teams at home in Major League Baseball this season, the Mets were playing .700 ball (42-18) in their own park and riding one of the most reliable starting pitching staffs to overall success, despite trotting out anemic lineups replete with holes and shortcomings.
However, infused by some key, pre-trade deadline acquisitions and the return of a few other vital pieces getting healthy again, New York’s lineup clicked in record fashion during its most recent road swing which saw visits to hitter-friendly venues in Baltimore, Colorado and Philadelphia.
It was a trip that ended with a near-perfect 8-1 mark last Thursday night, making the Mets a far more respectable 29-35 on the road this season, and an impressive 19-9 away from home since a season-high seven-game road losing streak which plummeted New York to just 10-26 on the road and under .500 (36-37) overall on June 24.
But now that they’ve straightened things out significantly on other teams’ fields, the Mets have precipitously fallen on hard times at the heretofore haven of Citi Field, dropping a season-high fifth straight home game to the last-place Boston Red Sox, as New York’s bats returned to quiet mode in a 3-1 loss on Saturday.
After going on the road and picking up a pitching staff that surrendered five and nine runs twice each, and seven on another occasion, by setting club records for runs (73) in a seven-game span, home runs (eight) and extra-base hits (15) in a game (during a 16-7 win in Philadelphia on August 24) and reaching a team-record for home runs in a month (with 43 in August, before they came home), the Mets have found it difficult to generate enough offense at Citi Field to stop a home slide which given New York’s earlier success, many never saw coming.
“We [had] been smashing the ball and the last two days, we had not,” Collins said after a second straight loss to Boston. “Today, we look a little tired.”
Not even the second-largest crowd ever (a sellout of 43,255 fans) at Citi Field could awaken the Mets on Saturday.
“We had a great road trip,” Collins said. “We love playing here. The crowds have been tremendous, [but] this is not Philadelphia, this is not Colorado and this is not Baltimore.”
Yet rather than place the blame on the more pitcher-friendly Citi Field, Collins pointed to Boston’s pitching (like Pittsburgh’s in New York’s prior home games) along with some fatigue as the culprits that stifled his team.
“I’m going to give the Red Sox a lot of credit,” he said. “They pitched very well the last two [games].”
Collins also maintained that the Mets didn’t get into any bad habits from all of the hitting they did while scoring at least nine runs five times and at least 14 runs at least three times during their most recent road trip.
“We hit lined drives after lined drives [Friday] night (during a 6-4 extra-inning loss to the Red Sox),” Collins said. “You look at the home runs we hit in [Colorado and Philadelphia], they weren’t just fly balls. They were blasts, they were lined drives. So I don’t think our approach has changed at all.
“Again, I’m going to go back (to what I said earlier). I think we’re a little tired, I really do. You’re watching some of the swings and just saying, ‘Boy, it looks like we’re outta gas.’ So I’m going to use that and not the ballpark.”
If Mets fans believe him, Collins had some reassuring words that New York will soon get back to its winning ways at home.
“We’re gonna be fine.” he said. “We’ve got a blip and we’ve got to pick it up.”