Karpin: Mets Must Seize This Opportunity

A long baseball season offers opportunities for a team to make up for lost ground and the Mets need to seize the one they’re being handed right now.

That opportunity is the schedule.

Following their 4-1 win over the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks, that produced the first home sweep in two years, the Mets have won three in a row and four of five. They need to ride this wave of a modest streak into one that will get them back on their feet after an ugly stretch of baseball in early May.

Next up on the schedule is the last place Marlins for a three game series. At the very least, the Mets have to take two of three because an eight game road trip to Milwaukee and Atlanta is what follows. To their credit, the Mets never fell to or under .500 during their rough stretch and are now 23-19. (BTW: Mets are two losses better than the Nationals, two losses behind first place Atlanta and one loss behind second place Philadelphia)

Winning pitcher Noah Syndergaard put the day in its proper perspective. “Great win, great sweep, happy Sunday,” he said after going seven innings for the second time this season. The Mets are going to need a lot more of that.

Syndegaard got behind a number of hitters which elevated his pitch count but a 4-pitch, fifth inning was like a godsend that he was able to convert into a longer outing. The inning began with an error by third baseman Wilmer Flores, on the first pitch of the inning, that allowed slow footed Jeff Mathis to reach. After a first pitch, successful sacrifice, David Peralta swung at the first pitch and singled to right. Mathis was waved home on a questionable send and was thrown out at the plate for the second out. Syndergaard retired Chris Owings on a little dribbler in front of the plate. It was the fourth pitch of the inning.

The Diamondbacks have dropped 10 of 11 and have scored 22 runs in that stretch so maybe they tried to force the issue. After the game, Arizona Manager Torey Lovullo defended his third base coach Tony Perezchica and attributed the missed opportunity to how things have been going lately. “We have had some unfortunate things pop up from time to time,” he said.

Despite not having great command, the 25-year old was able to scatter six hits without much damage. Syndegaard felt more variety was the key. I was trying to keep the hitters off balance, not trying to get too fastball happy,” he said. “Curve ball felt really nice today, slider’s coming along nicely as well and just the ability to mix in a lot of four seam and two seam fastballs. That was really effective for me.”

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway liked what he saw from his starter. “He just did a good job of attacking,” the former pitching coach said. “He (Syndergaard) mixed his curve ball in a little bit more today which I thought was always necessary for him to slow guys down.”

This is a significant sweep for the Mets in more ways than one but, for one thing, it hasn’t always been easy vs. Arizona. Before this series, the Mets had dropped 11 of 13 against the Diamondbacks.

The offense has begun to show signs of life and that includes young shortstop Amed Rosario who looks like he’s “starting to get it.” Rosario slugged the first multi-home run game of his young career. His first dinger off of Arizona starter Clay Buchholz (who was making his first start and appearance in over a year) in the sixth tied the game at one. The second home run came as part of a back-to-back with pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera who snapped a 1-1 tie in the 7th with a two run shot.

Eventually, Rosario will need to become more of a factor at the top of the lineup. “Rosie’s still a very young player. He needs to continue to develop,” Callaway said.

Michael Conforto is getting better at-bats. It appeared he was getting “launch angle happy” but his swing has leveled off a bit and he’s starting to drive the ball the other way. Todd Frazier is due back soon and hopefully, Yoenis Cespedes, who is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday, can provide a boost heading into the road trip.

Callaway broke up Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard in the rotation and the two delivered big time outings on Friday and Sunday respectively. With the inconsistency from the remainder of the rotation, successful starts from the Mets’ two best starting pitchers will be imperative. Steven Matz, Jason Vargas and Zack Wheeler have to carry their weight and don’t have much time to show they belong. The time is approaching where the Mets will not hesitate to get Seth Lugo into the rotation.

The Mets took care of one team that used to “eat their lunch.” Miami provides them with another opportunity, but will they seize it. They better, if they intend to be in the race.

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