Esposito: Mets’ Best is Next to Come…Maybe

Mets fans, despite ending the season on a high note, winning 1-0 against the Nationals, a two-hitter no less, might have reasons for concern. Ending a season on a five-game losing streak prior to the last game victory is not a good way of entering the playoffs. Getting no-hit by one of the best pitchers in baseball, or at least one of the richest, is also not a fun jumping off point, although some say it is an omen borrowed from 1969.

On Sept. 20, 1969, the Pirates’ Bob Moose no-hit the Mets just days before the close of the season, and then the Miracle unfolded. So can history repeat itself?

Mets fans certainly hope so, although the real question after this week might be not whether the Mets can win the NLDS, but will they score a run?

It’s hard to win a game if you don’t score any runs, as the Mets have been re-introduced to that concept in the last week of the year. Somehow the June/early July version of Mets baseball has reared its ugly unproductive head of late.

Hope springs eternal, but Mets baseball will fall back in autumn unless they kick it in gear come Friday, when the Mets travel to the City of Angels for the first of the five-game NLDS against the Dodgers. It’s Jacob deGrom – who enjoyed a K-enriched tuneup in game No. 162, with seven strikeouts in his four innings of work – against Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 out in the City of Angels, then “Thor” Syndergaard vs. Kevin Greinke in Game 2. Then it’s back to Citi life with the Dark Knight vs. Mr. TBA for Game 3.

If the Mets find it as hard to score runs on the left coast as they have of late, then there’s not going to be a happy recap. Going into the last day of the regular season, the Mets had scored just one run in their last 35 innings. Not a good recipe for success.

They ended up going 42 innings before Curtis Granderson popped one over the left field wall in the eighth inning for the team’s only run of the day, the game’s only run of the day, and that was enough to secure the club’s 90th win of the year, the 11th time a Mets club had won at least 90 games.

The last time this mark was reached was in 2006 (97-65). Mets fans clearly remember what happened in that postseason, which resulted in a close, but no cigar ride to the Fall Classic.

Nonetheless, Mets skipper Terry Collins acknowledges the team’s confidence level is off the charts getting ready for the postseason tournament.

“The guys are extremely pumped up,” Collins told the media. “They’re excited. They’re not frustrated by the last five games in the slightest. They’re focused on Friday.”

Perhaps they were coasting the last week, having clinched the division on Sept. 26. They did play the “B” team a few times since, but the five-game losing streak looms as an ominous Damocles sword overhead.

They went 16-11 for September after an amazing August run where they essentially won the division then with a 20-8 mark. Interestingly though, the team batting average in September was just one point lower than August (.268 to .269), but the team ERA was up (4.29 to 3.43).

When you stretch the numbers going back to August or even to the All-Star break, the Mets now rank favorably well. They hit 102 home runs since the All-Star break for the most in the National League, and fifth-most in the majors.

They hit 177 home runs as team, reaching their highest total since 2007 – also with 177. And they clocked a team-record 85 homers at Citi Field. The previous club mark was 67 in 2012.

Granderson set a club mark with 26 home runs from the leadoff spot, including a club record seven longballs to start the game.

The pitching staff had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.47, for fourth best in the majors, a second-best WHIP of 1.18, and a fifth best major league ERA, 3.45. They also lead the majors with 23 games in which they did not issue any walks, also a new club record.

Jeurys Familia tied a club record with his 43rd save on the last day, equaling the mark set by Armando Benitez in 2001.

When Max Scherzer completed his no-hitter against the Mets on Saturday night (2-0, with the only blemish an error by Nats’ third baseman Yunel Escobar), it was the second time the Mets had been no-hit this season (after the giant’s Chris Heston did so on June 9 at Citi Field), and it marked the first time the Mets had been no-hit twice in one season. Previously, the Mets had endured just five no-hitters in their 54-season history, the first by LA’s Sandy Koufax in 1962 (June 30, 5-0).

Jim Bunning had his Father’s Day Perfect Game performance in 1964 at Shea (June 21, 6-0). Then came the aforementioned Moose moment. The Expos’ Bill Stoneman no-hit the Mets in 1972 up in Montreal (Oct. 2, 7-0). Ed Halicki shut down the Metsies at San Francisco in 1975 (Aug. 24, 6-0). And Daryl Kile added to the illustrious history of no-hitters for the Astros in 1993 at Houston (Sept. 8, 7-1).

One quirky aspect of these no-hitters against the Mets is that four of them came in the front or back ends of doubleheaders. Bunning and Stoneman made their historic achievements in the first game of their twinbills. Halicki wrapped his up in the second game of a two-for-one event. Scherzer’s no-hitter was technically a single game, but being the second game of a day-night, separate admission “doubleheader” is still a doubleheader in this perspective.

The Mets have enjoyed just one no-hitter on their side of the ledger, that memorable game in 2012 (June 1) when Johan Santana no-hit the Cardinals. The game was slightly marred by controversy, however, when a ball by ex-Met Carlos Beltran laced down the left field line that was ruled foul but might have been ruled fair had replay been in effect.

The Mets had 49 players appear in at least one game for them this season, 26 of which were pitchers. This is not a team record. They suited up a record 54 players in 1967. By contrast, the Yankees dressed 56 players this season, 33 of them pitchers. However, two of those pitchers, Brendan Ryan and Garrett Jones, are position players pressed into emergency duty in blowouts.

So it’s on to the playoffs with a positive outlook. And runs might still be at a premium for both sides with some very strong arms throwing into the shadows at Dodgers Stadium.

Here’s a tip of the cap for some happy recaps for Mets fans. Enjoy every moment, Mets fans. Enjoy.

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