(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
The Manager Terry Collins said Tuesday night after his New York Mets lost 6-2 to the Atlanta Braves, “All of a sudden we’ve hit a wall.” And he also made reference to a team that is tight and he does not know why. Maybe it is the anticipation of looking ahead with the magic number at six because the Nationals lost their game to the Baltimore Orioles.
But the Mets have not resembled that explosive team of August on this homestand that concludes Wednesday night against the Braves, and perhaps that is why Collins said they have hit that wall and appear to be tight. The home runs have been sparse, driving runners home in scoring position have also been hard to find, and there have been more strikeouts at the plate.
Don’t blame a bullpen completely that let this game also get away from them because Tyler Clippard has suddenly become ineffective. He gave up a two run double in the ninth inning and can’t find the location. That’s another issue of late inning relief out of the pen that could put Addison Reed in an eighth inning role.
And this is not the time of year for the offense to get cold. With eleven games remaining, and with a division title in grasp, momentum is so important to carry into an eventual and expected first round divisional series meeting with the Dodgers. But the Mets offense has not resembled a team that has led the National League in runs scored since July 25th, also third in the major leagues.
They lost two of three to the Yankees, and scored seven runs. Monday night it was a 4-0 win over the Braves, but there could have been more runs crossing the plate. The issue, as was again Tuesday night, was having difficulty hitting in key situations, and when starter Logan Verrett allowed four runs in the fifth, the Mets did not have that proficient offense and ability to come from behind
Except for a David Wright home run in the first inning, and two doubles from Daniel Murphy, the offense as Collins said could have hit a wall. Or the team could be in a struggle, as Collins said, “tight”, and a team with the third most comeback wins in baseball could not do anything anything substantial against Braves rookie starter Matt Wisler and against a bullpen that has struggled all season.
There should be no explanation because the Mets have that 6-½ game lead, and the official divisional clincher could come in Cincinnati, or next week in one of the three games at Philadelphia. But all of a sudden, Collins sees his team losing for the fifth time in seven games.
“Coming into a homestand we had a chance to make a huge impact with a very substantial lead,” Collins said. “We should have been quite relaxed with the lead we had. We should have been going out and playing the game nice and loosely and calm. For me, it looks like we’re tight. I don’t know why.”
He added,” It’s just the perception it looks like from the bench.” The reality though, is the Mets went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and in these last nine games at Citi Field against the Marlins, Yankees, and the Braves, the Mets are 8 for their last 60 with runners in scoring position.
Those numbers don’t look good for a team that is anticipating and headed to playing baseball in October. And it is showing from Collins’ perception from the bench and from a spectator in the stands.
Example number one of the perception, and something that has been more frequent was the eighth inning with one out and the bases loaded. The Mets had their opportunity but did not capitalize on what they did so often and well starting in late July.
Michael Cuddyer came off the bench and hit for Lucas Duda, because he was 6-for-11 against Braves’ righthander Edwin Jackson. His sacrifice fly scored Curtis Granderson. But Wilmer Flores, who was so good in these situations hit a grounder to short and the Mets stranded two in scoring position.
An opportunity that went the other way for the Mets. So it is a matter of a team being tight, or just hitting a wall where the Mets can climb over beginning Wednesday night?
“I don’t think we’re tight,” said Wright. “We need to get some momentum back on our side. I think there are going to be some games where we get outplayed. Tonight was one of them. We have to wins series especially at home. We have been doing that all year.”
Yet this is the first Mets homestand this season where the Mets have a losing record. And there should be the question about Yoenis Cespedes who had another bad night at the plate, 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. And for the first time he heard some boos from the home crowd when he did not run to first after a strikeout in the fourth inning when the ball got by catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Cespedes was not available to comment about his at bats, neither were most of the Mets regarding the comments of their manager about being tight. Regardless what the manager says, everything is pointing to what should come soon and that is clinching a postseason spot for the first time in nine years.
Tight as it may look, there is not much time left before the days of October and as Wright, said, you need to win series. Winning every game is asking too much whether it is April or September, and maybe the Mets appear to be tight because it is that time of year with that anticipation of wrapping up the division.
But Collins is not hiding the truth. Because the Mets have not looked like the same team they were last month and another loss to the Braves will definitely say they are having issues getting over that wall.