So with a New York Mets 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field Sunday afternoon, the first half of the schedule is complete. Manager Terry Collins, his coaching staff, along with pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia departed for San Diego to be a part of the All-Star game Tuesday night.
Still nursing a bad quad, Yoenis Cespedes will not make the trip and miss the festivities and has been replaced as a starting outfielder for the NL All-Stars, Departing Citi Field is the rest of this Mets team, one that has been decimated by injuries and hoping to be on the mend when the second half commences Friday night in Philadelphia.
The Nationals, on the other hand are a confident bunch after taking three of four from their NL division rivals, and they end the half with a six -game advantage over the second place Mets.
And it is all about winning the division in the second half. Right now, the Nationals, with one of the top three records in the National League, are sitting pretty as the better team over the Mets. Again, as Collins said, nobody is going to feel sorry for his team.
“We’re still in a race,”Collins said. “The state of the team is we’re banged up. That’s why we’re taking the four days and hopefully recuperate. We’ve been in this situation one year ago when things looked bleak and we ended up playing the World Series, so we’re upbeat.”
But, how confident can this team be after the Nationals pitched better and certainly had the better offense, partly attributed to a familiar face, Daniel Murphy who hit another home run Sunday and has seven and 21 RBI in 13-games against his former team.
And with the exception of Thursday night, when the Mets got a 9-7 comeback win, they could not seem to go over the hump in this four-game series as Washington is 9-4 this season in their matchup and six games remain home-and-home.
Hard to say what will transpire between now and then, but right now the Nationals, who matched their highest win total prior to the All-Star break in franchise history with 54, are the better team and could be the divisional king come October.
And that is expected, because 14 other teams are making sure the Mets do not repeat as National League champions and that 47-41 record at the half, with 74 games remaining may mean to assure that the Mets get back to full strength. If not, and by all means from the understanding, GM Sandy Alderson will make some minor adjustments to upgrade the roster before the August 1st non-waiver trade deadline.
As of this juncture, there is no doubt the Nationals are a better team. If calculations live to expectations, they will dethrone the Mets as NL East division champs, and 90 wins is on pace. The Mets, don’t look at numbers that way, but it is not difficult to comprehend the outcome of an 11-game homestand that saw them go 7-4 including a four-game sweep over the Chicago Cubs.
And to many, despite their recent struggles, the Cubs are the best team in baseball at the half, and favorites to win the pennant and go on to the World Series.
There is no immediate help on the horizon for the Mets. Cespedes has to recover. David Wright is now an afterthought and Lucas Duda is far from returning to add some punch, though the dependence on a home run ball continued to be a first half theme.
Two more were hit in the leadoff position from Jose Reyes that tied a franchise record held by Curtis Granderson. And every Mets fan is hoping that Alderson is working the phones, and that Reyes is not the lone acquisition that was made before the trading deadline.
Simply put, the Mets need more than J-O-S-E – J-O-S-E to overtake the Nationals and duplicate what occurred last season, and a team franchise record of home runs, 122 in the first 88 games is not a way to generate most of the run production.
“Everything for me is starting to come together,” Reyes said, “And now I’m going to have four days off. For me, I don’t want that right now. It’s part of baseball.”
Alderson did it,at the end of the trading deadline last July, with the big acquisition of Cespedes who was instrumental in the unexpected October run to the World Series. But this year, a major impact player like Cespedes will not be available because he does not have the chips to give away as has been done in the past.
Back to full strength is what the Mets need to overtake the Nationals. And that means going down the stretch without Matt Harvey, who was ineffective before being shut down with a season ending nerve issue to the shoulder that required surgery. And all of sudden it appears the Mets need to acquire another arm, something that has been unheard of as other teams would look for their valuable commodity, and Zach Wheeler is not on the way back from Tommy John Surgery with some setbacks.
Syndergaard is expected to return and make his start down in Philadelphia under the assumption that a tired arm can get back to strength. The bone spur issue to the elbow is not the problem, and Steven Matz with 7.0 innings Sunday did not seem to be hindered by a bone spur.
Instead, it was the Mets offense that once again got shut down by a Nationals starting pitcher, as Gio Gonzalez continued his domination at Citi Field. The 30-year old lefthander tossed 5.2 innings on two runs on four hits, in getting his fifth win. In 13-career starts at Citi Field, Gonzalez is now 8-1 with a 1.65 ERA.
“We are glad to have Murph here,” said Gonzalez about the Nationals signing of Daniel Murphy during the off-season. The Mets let him walk and Murphy is on pace to an MVP season by leading the league in hitting and producing 17-home runs, with 66 RBI. Instead the Mets made the offer for Cespedes to return.
It has been a Cespedes offense at the mid season point. But there needs to be more, and again staying healthy is a priority for this team to overtake the Nationals.
Collins concluded his day and headed to San Diego. He said, it was a disappointing end to the homestand losing three-of -four to the division leaders and in between sweeping those four games from the Cubs.
“I’m a big boy, he said,”I swallow it pretty good. I can handle it. We’ve got to get ready for next weekend. When we get to Philly, that’s when we’ve really got to get it going.”
Yes, the second half will be approaching. Time to rest and mend now the next four days before the grueling second half of games. Because right now, the Nationals are the better team just like it was last season at the same time.