Mets Rebound From Slow Start

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Arturo Pardavila.

The defending National League Champion New York Mets did not exactly start this season the way they wanted to. The Mets currently have a record of 7-7, which is not great. But after a bit of a sluggish start, the Mets seem to have picked things up in the past week. While it is still very early in the season, there have been some things that had Mets fans concerned.

The team started the season the same way they ended the previous season, facing off against the Kansas City Royals with Matt Harvey on the mound. While the Royals organization had a nice celebratory video for what the Mets accomplished last year, the team had to watch as the Royals raised their “2015 World Series Champions” banner. The Mets responded by losing their first game of the season 4-3.

The next game in the series would force the Mets to watch the Royals players receive their World Series rings. This time the Mets came out victorious, as Noah Syndergaard pitched six scoreless innings while striking out nine batters. Neil Walker hit a two-run home run, his first as a Met, to give the Mets a 2-0 win and their first victory of the season.

Then on Friday, April 8, the Mets won their home opener 7-2 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Jacob deGrom pitched very well, despite the fact that his wife was scheduled to go into labor at any moment. He would end up leaving the game early due to lat tightness, the same injury that caused Steven Matz to lose a significant amount of time last season. Not good news for Mets fans.

Things got worse as the Mets lost their next four games, two to the Phillies and two to the Miami Marlins. In those four games, the offense scored six runs. It was like watching the team from last year before the trade deadline, when the offense was so abysmal that Eric Campbell hit fifth on a daily basis. Not only that, but losing series to teams in your own division is not acceptable even if it is April. Especially losing to a team like the Phillies that is in full rebuilding mode and likely will finish no higher than fourth place this year.

Another cause for concern was the performance Matz had in his first start of the season during that losing streak. On Monday, April 11, Matz allowed seven runs in just an inning and two-thirds of work against the Marlins.

However since that four-game losing streak, not only have the Mets won five of their last seven games but they have also dispelled a lot of worries about the team in the process.

The most important improvement the team has seen is the offense. The bats have come alive in the past week after struggling against the Phillies and Marlins. The Mets scored at least four runs in six straight games after scoring just six in four games.

The brightest spot in the recent offensive surge has been 23-year-old outfielder Michael Conforto. After a solid rookie campaign last year, Conforto is currently hitting .279 with  seven extra-base hits. Most importantly, he has been placed in the three-hole in the lineup and has flourished. Mets fans expect him to be the cornerstone of the offense for years to come, and it’s great to see him doing well early in the season.

It has also been great to see Yoenis Cespedes heat up as of late. After being re-signed to a $75 million contract, the Cuban-born outfielder struggled out of the gate and was even booed by the Citi Field crowd during the series against the Phillies. He has been hitting much better since, and he is currently batting .291 with five home runs in this young season.

Worries about Matz were also calmed after he pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out nine against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, April 17. He showed that he is a very young, but talented pitcher and one bad start does not change that.

But the most impressive pitcher for the Mets thus far has been Syndergaard. “Thor” currently has an ERA of 0.90 and is striking out 13.05 batters per game. He won’t keep it up all season, but it’s great to see the flamethrower get off to such a hot start to the season.

Also after dropping two of three games to the Phillies at home, the Mets responded by taking two of three against the Phillies in Philadelphia from Monday, April 18 to Wednesday, April 20. It seems a little crazy to get excited over the Mets beating the lowly Phillies, but it’s good to see the team respond well after a tough series and win the games that they should be winning.

More good news came this week when it was announced that deGrom’s newborn son, who experienced some health issues after his birth, was able to leave the hospital and his health is improving. deGrom will also return to the mound on Sunday, April 24, so hopefully his lat injury is nothing serious.

Unfortunately, there is one thing that still has Mets fans concerned and has not been resolved in the past week. Harvey has really been struggling this season. “The Dark Knight” currently has a record of 0-3 with an ERA of 5.71. On Saturday, April 16, Harvey got off to a great start by pitching a perfect three innings. But he then proceeded to give up two runs in the fourth and three runs in the fifth to the Indians. He is obviously still a very capable pitcher, but something has been off about him. Harvey’s next start will come on Friday, April 22 against the Atlanta Braves, who currently have a record of 4-10. Hopefully Harvey is just having a slow start, and getting a win against one of the worst teams in baseball could help him get things together.

One last thing that has Mets fans concerned is the way the Washington Nationals have been playing. The Nats currently have a record of 11-3 and sit atop the National League East. Last year’s MVP, Bryce Harper, has gotten off to a terrific start this season. Not to mention that former-Met Daniel Murphy currently leads all of baseball with a .429 batting average. Washington may finally be living up to expectations, which is trouble for the Amazins.

Even though it’s early in the season, Mets fans have already held their breath and subsequently breathed a sigh of relief multiple times. But it’s important to keep in mind that it is still early in the season and there is plenty of time for things to change. I am willing to guarantee that Harvey will not struggle the way he has been for the remainder of the season. The Nationals got off to a very hot start, and while they are a very talented team and will fight with the Mets all season for the division crown, they’re not going to have a winning percentage of .786 all season. But even though it is early, a win in April counts just as much as a win in September. Thankfully, the Mets seem to have figured out how to win games in April.