(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
There was a mood in the postgame clubhouse of the New York Mets Wednesday night and very similar to the one that was displayed on the field. There was that lack of energy after the Miami Marlins took two of three games and shut out the Mets 6-0 at Citi Field. Suddenly there is no talk about a magic number of ten to clinch the division after Marlins pitching limited the Mets to three hits.
Manager Terry Collins said, “I think you’re seeing just a little bit of a drainage of the system.” However after a seven-game winning streak, and with sweeps over the Nationals and Braves, and games full of late game dramatics, this was no time for the Mets to lose that energy.
Yes, this is mid September. And the team obviously is showing signs of being tired with a well deserved day off Thursday before the crosstown Yankees come in for three beginning Friday night. Citi Field will be energized this weekend, and it will because the Yankees begin a six game stretch with the Mets and Blue Jays that could determine where they go in October.
The Mets, on the other hand and with a relatively comfortable 7-½ game cushion, in front of the NL east with 16 games left to play, are expected to have a few bumps along the way. And though the Nationals seem to be surging, it may be too late with little time left to bypass the Mets and pull off an epic comeback.
However the lack of energy from the Mets does seem to be a concern, even though a quiet clubhouse would make one believe this is a part of the September pennant stretch. More of a concern was how a Adam Conley, who started the season in the Marlins pen, was able to toss a career high 7.0 innings and not allow a run or walk and struck out six.
And it wasn’t until the eighth inning when the Mets got the leadoff hitter on base. More disturbing was New York getting shutout for the first time since July 23rd against the Dodgers, and the Marlins outscored the Mets 15-3 the last two games which also took the energy out of the Citi Field crowds the past two nights.
Collins does have an explanation, as does the captain David Wright who got two of the Mets hits.One hit went for a double to left center in the fourth inning that gave Wright nine multi- hit games since returning from the disabled list on August 24th, and in that span of 18-games is batting .289.
So the captain does not appear to be tired, and he is making no excuses about the state of his team. There is no excuse about being too comfortable with an eventual clinching date on the agenda, rather it is about playing down the stretch and sometimes the energy of a long season will take a toll.
Bartolo Colon could be feeling the grind also. The righthander allowed three runs, all earned in 5.2 innings, his first loss since August 9 at Tampa Bay. And two of the runs came off the home run.
“I don’t think it’s the energy,” Wright explained. “I think it’s just more so we got outplayed and that’s gonna happen. There’s gonna be days where you just get outplayed and today we got outplayed in every area of the game.”
But Mets’ fans don’t want to hear that. After all they were expected to keep the winning streak going and further reduce that magic number as they have been starving to celebrate something special after a nine year hiatus from the postseason. And with the Yankees coming in, and also playing for something big in trying to overtake the Blue Jays for first place, chances are the magic number won’t diminish that much.
Wright and the Mets intend to approach the series as if the Nationals were in town, and approach the Yankees series as they would any other game. It’s no different to them, but losing two of three to a Marlins team that was playing for next year, does leave an impression that the mighty Mets of the past two months can suddenly be beat.
And remember the last shutout against the Dodgers, before the one Wednesday night? That’s when the Mets were at their lowest peak of the season and there was talk that October baseball at Citi Field would not be possible. Then the changes came, including Yoenis Cespedes who suddenly has gone cold striking out two more times Wednesday night, going 0-for-8 the last two games.
There has to be a concern, and again it is the grind of that September stretch. But the Yankees are coming from across town and when the schedule was made, as expected this was going to be an important three games.
Said Wright about the Yankees series, “Obviously they’re meaningful this time of year on both sides and the energy will be there. The fans usually bring that and that rubs off on the players. But we gotta treat it like any other game cause we’re down the homestretch now.”
Collins has always had the right words from the April 11-game winning streak, to the losing, lack of hits and runs, to the winning and potent offense of the past two months. In between has been the outstanding pitching, and also decisions how to schedule and providing some rest to the valuable arms that comprise this talented and young Mets pitching rotation,
But these are the Yankees coming to Citi Field, and the Mets are coming off two games that have resembled that bad stretch of losing games before Cespedes and company arrived on the scene. There was no fight the past two nights and no sense of the comeback Mets that have 38 come from behind wins, third best in the majors.
“We had such an emotional high going coming out of Atlanta,” Collins said. “I think you’re seeing just a little bit of a drainage of the system. If there was a day off coming I think it’s coming at the right time. I think we need to just get away for a little but. We’re gonna come back. It’s gonna be pretty exciting starting Friday.”
One thing the Mets have in their favor is throwing three of their best in Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. The Yankees will counter with Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.
Collins added, “We need to pick the energy level up a bit.” How much energy, though is the question. That will be determined the next few days because if there is none that magic number may get more interesting and take a little longer to reach.
It’s what every Mets fan wants….Zero.