Cooled Off In Queens

A marathon is not won within the first few feet after the starting line, and the baseball season is a marathon. The Mets came running out of the gate to start this season, but since their 11-game winning streak they have fallen back down to Earth.

The Mets could not have had a better two and a half weeks to start the 2015 season. First they took two out of three games from the Washington Nationals in their first series. This was huge considering the Mets’ lack of success against the Nats last season and the fact that everyone, including me, expected the Nationals to easily win the National League East this season.

Shortly after this series, the Mets went on a crazy 11-game winning streak which included a 10-game homestand where they did not lose a single game, something that had never happened before in their history.

The most important aspect of their winning streak, all of the Mets wins came against teams that play in their division. The Amazins’ beat the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins four times, and the Philadelphia Phillies three times.

The team looked as though they were clicking on all cylinders. Even with the injury to Zack Wheeler, who will miss the entire season due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets rotation looked as good as advertised. Matt Harvey returned and looked as sharp as he did throughout the 2013 season. Jacob deGrom looked even better than Matt Harvey to start this season. Bartolo Colon, the ancient Mariner, looked great as well and even outdueled Max Scherzer, the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner, on Opening Day.

The offense was projected to be very shaky, and while it certainly is not a great one, the Mets batters took advantage of other team’s mistakes and got clutch hits when the team needed them. Despite his low batting average, Curtis Granderson seems to find a way to get on base thanks in large part to his ability to draw walks frequently. Juan Lagares and Lucas Duda have been fantastic so far and Travis d’Arnaud was hitting very well too before he broke his hand on a hit-by-pitch during a game against the Marlins on April 19. But this opened a spot for Kevin Plawecki, a Mets prospect who has done a solid job filling in on behalf of d’Arnaud’s absence.

A nice surprise for the Mets has been their bullpen this season. The Mets lost Vic Black and Josh Edgin to injuries before this season began, and both were key cogs in the bullpen

last season. Jenrry Mejia, the Mets closer, was suspended for 80 games due to his use of performance enhancing drugs. But none of this has slowed the Mets bullpen. Last year’s setup man, Jeurys Familia, has stepped into the closer role and has done a fantastic job. He is 11-for-11 in save opportunities and currently leads the National League in saves. Alex Torres, Sean Gilmartin and Erik Goeddel have been solid new additions and Carlos Torres, no relation to Alex, has continued to be a great reliever for the Mets. The bullpen ERA of 2.85 is currently eighth best in baseball.

But all of the positivity for the Mets came crashing down when they went into Yankee Stadium for part one of the Subway Series this season. The Mets had their 11-game win streak snapped on April 24 with a 6-1 loss at the hands of the New York Yankees. deGrom pitched very poorly in this game for the first time all season, and he has yet to bounce back. The Mets would win the next day by a score of 8-2, Harvey pitched brilliantly and it looked like the team was poised to take the series the next day. But unfortunately, the Yankees came out on top by a score of 6-4. Don’t be fooled by the score though, that game was never close. The Mets committed four errors in the game and Jonathon Niese, who is usually very consistent, got hammered by the Yankee bats. It was disappointing to see the team lose the series against their rival, but what has happened since has been even worse.

Since that night, the Mets have gone 2-5, losing two out of three to the Marlins and then three out of four to the Nationals. Both teams were projected to be the Mets top competitors in the division this season, and they both look as though they are rebounding from their poor starts.

The last two games against the Nationals were 1-0 Washington victories. The Mets couldn’t push a run across the plate in either game and the offense seems to have lost their ability to get the clutch hit when needed. But more alarming has been the Mets’ defense, especially around the infield. Shortstop Wilmer Flores is suffering from “Chuck Knoblauch Syndrome,” as he can’t seem to throw accurately to the first baseman. Eric Campbell, who replaced an injured David Wright at third base, has looked very shaky as well. Daniel Murphy has since taken over the third base job while Wright still recovers from a hamstring injury, but Murphy isn’t exactly a stable defender either.

Despite the Mets’ recent skid, there are plenty of reasons to remain positive. Every team is going to face rough times throughout the season and there’s no way the Mets were going to play the way they did the first few weeks all season long. Keep in mind that the Mets, as they seem to do every season, have suffered from a large amount of injuries so far. Wheeler and Edgin were lost before the season and we won’t be seeing them until 2016. Black has yet to throw a pitch for the Mets and neither have Mejia or former Mets closer Bobby Parnell. Wright and d’Arnaud were off to great starts this season, and neither have played for the past few weeks. Wright will hopefully be returning soon, but it looks as though d’Arnaud will be out for quite some time. Throw in the fact that Daniel Murphy and Michael Cuddyer have not gotten off to a hot start this season, but they will most certainly start hitting soon as both have proven to be very consistent hitters. All of this and yet the Mets are still in first place.

But it seems as though their time at the top of the division will most likely be ending soon. Believe it or not, this fact is not as upsetting as you’d think. No one thought this team would ever be ahead of the Nationals in the standings, let alone for the first month of the year. I stated in my previous column that the Mets will most likely not make the playoffs, and I stand by that prediction. If they compete for a Wild Card spot throughout the summer, then that’s more exciting baseball than anyone has seen from this team in years and I will take that. Not to mention the fact that Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, two Mets pitching prospects, have been tearing up the minor leagues this season and both could join the club rather soon. If the Mets can get some of their injured players back soon, don’t be surprised to see this skid end.