The Mets entered this season with sky-high expectations, and with that comes scrutiny and adversity.
After Wednesday’s tough loss to the White Sox, the Mets have a 29-23 record, which is pretty good considering their nominal ace, Matt Harvey, has not been himself; they have been without their starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud for the past month, first baseman Lucas Duda is out indefinitely with a back injury, and Thursday brought the news that Captain David Wright will be out for an extended period of time with a herniated disk in his neck.
Mets Manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday morning of what he knows about this team, “I think we’re sitting right now, with what’s happened early this year, certainly some injuries and a little bit of a slow start for Harv (Matt Harvey), I think we’re in pretty good shape. We know we’ve got the warm months coming up. I think we’ll certainly continue to get better and better, our health will get better, and I think we’re looking at a fun summer.”
The Mets arguably have the strongest rotation in the league, with Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon. They could win a lot of games with minimal run support.
Collins said of the Mets pitching carrying them with the injuries, “We’re still going to be okay, we just got to grind out some on the offensive side, but we’re going to be fine. Our pitching’s going to come, as you saw last year when the pitching gets going, we get rolling.”
Mets starters have come on strong in the latter part of May because of having veteran catcher Rene Rivera behind the plate. Rivera caught Matt Harvey’s gem on Monday against the Chicago White Sox.
Collins said of what Rivera does particularly well to help the pitchers along, “Well, he’s a good defender. He sees the ball well, he’s got a great arm. I think when you’re new and you don’t know the staff, I mean, he’s constantly trying to learn what these guys do to get outs with certain guys out there. (Pitching coach) Dan’s (Warthen) game plan, he really tries to take it between innings, he’ll talk to Dan about, what do you want to do with the first guy, he’s pretty prepared.”
Rivera is making a case to see significant playing time now and when d’Arnaud returns because the starters are going to get used to how he calls a game. If Harvey gets on track with Rivera back there, and the young arms continue to progress, you can bet the house they won’t be making a change.
One other intangible that Rivera brings is enthusiasm to get pitchers through their outings, doing such demonstrative things as pumping his fist after big outs to get them going.
Collins said of that, “I think you’ve got, if you really trust your catcher and your catcher has leadership skills, where he truly believes in the numbers he’s putting down, I think it takes a little load off the pitcher in what he’s going to do and he can trust the catcher.”
In an attempt to account for the loss of Duda, the Mets traded for veteran first baseman James Loney, and he made his debut on Tuesday and was in the lineup for the last two games of the White Sox series.
Loney can certainly play first, but the reason he has bounced around between the Dodgers, Boston, Tampa Bay, and was in the Padres minor league system until the Mets traded for him, is he can’t hit. Despite the fact that Duda wasn’t hitting much either, he could go on these hot streaks and also was always a power threat that pitchers would have to be careful with.
Collins said of General Manager Sandy Alderson looking for help between now and at the trade deadline, especially with Wright being out for a while, “Certainly, I think they are, but I gotta tell you, I don’t ask those things. You know, I got enough on my plate getting through today. Certainly, I trust them wholeheartedly that they know what we need and they know what we’re looking at, and they have a pretty good feel for what we’re trying to do and we meet all the time, but I don’t ask ‘are you looking,’ that’s not me. I am sure that they’re doing due diligence to get us better.”
One thing the Mets proved in the first two months is that they are one of the strongest teams in the league, with 73 home runs, the most in team history through 51 games.
Collins said of having power in the lineup, “Well, it gets you back in games. If you’re behind, you can catch up in a hurry, and that’s one of the things that makes a big difference. It’s the same thing, every guy that walks up there puts a lot of pressure on the other pitcher, that he doesn’t make mistakes, because we can do damage. We think a lot of times, almost every inning, this could be the inning we’re going to put a crooked number up on the board, so it’s kind of fun to watch. As long as we continue to stay aggressive at home plate and some of the guys do what they’re supposed to do, we’re going to start scoring some runs.”
Despite being without Duda, Wright, and d’Arnaud, they still have plenty of pop, led by Yoenis Cespedes, who is second in the National League with 15 home runs.
Neil Walker, in his first year with the Mets, has 13 home runs; Curtis Granderson has nine homers, and Michael Conforto, in his first full year with the Mets, has eight homers.
There is no reason to be alarmed by what happened on Wednesday against Chicago, those games happen to the best of teams. The Mets have shown that they can get things going on the road, and they could do pretty well on this ten-game road trip starting Friday night in Miami.
The three with the Marlins could be tricky, then the big series with the Pirates in Pittsburgh next Monday to Wednesday is the toughest part of the trip. The trip concludes with four in Milwaukee, so they could have a good chance at going 5-5 and showing that they are still a force to be reckoned with.