BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Francisco Lindor said something interesting after the Mets’ 6-3 loss to the Miami Marlins last Friday night.
He mentioned his team had hit the wall. He meant that the Mets may have exhausted all their energy all season to be in first place that they may have nothing left right now. This might explain why they haven’t hit lately and why they have struggled as of late while holding on to their slim first-place lead.
After the Chicago Cubs swept the Mets this week, the NL East leaders started their weekend series against the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates with a 7-1 victory at Citi Field on Thursday night. They have a one-game lead over the Atlanta Braves,
Prior to Thursday night’s game, the Mets dropped seven of the first 12 amid a stretch of 16 straight games against sub-.500 opponents.
Mets fans can talk about the team playing to the level of their opponent. This can be true, but also remember in baseball, it’s not who you play, but when you play. It’s all about timing. The sub.500 teams caught the Mets at the right time. The Amazins are struggling to get to the finish line by not hitting in recent weeks. The pitching hasn’t been good, too.
Right now, the Mets are trying to survive in what has been a long season, which is always the case once September comes around. This is a team that hasn’t gone on a slump all season. They were due. Unfortunately for them, it’s the wrong time. September is the worst time for a team to start slumping when postseason teams tend to sharpen up for postseason baseball.
The Mets do have a lifeline. The Braves haven’t exactly taken advantage of the Mets’ struggles by going 4-4 on their West Coast trip. After a two-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, they lost the series to the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants. Now, they return home to play the Philadelphia Phillies for a weekend series followed by another one on the road next weekend.
It sure appears the NL East title will come down to the Mets playing the Braves at Truist Park on Sept. 30 to Oct. 2. No one could be surprised if it happens. Both teams have been on a collision course to play each other for one last bragging right. It makes sense for the Mets to go to Atlanta and beat the Braves to earn the division title. After all, it’s a rite of passage that the Mets have to earn it by finally beating their nemesis when it really matters. There’s no time like this one, and the baseball gods prefer to see the Mets earn the NL East title by going through the Braves.
By then, the Mets hope they can figure things out. Maybe this win could be the start of them heading in the right direction. It wasn’t just the Mets winning that stood out. It was how the Mets won by getting timely hitting, creating a big inning and receiving quality pitching. The attributes that help them win 90 games this season. For one night, their slump could be forgotten.
The Mets need to make sure everyone is healthy heading to the final stretch. They need to get Max Scherzer back from the injured list. He should be back next week after he made a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse. They have to hope Carlos Carrasco can build off a great start by striking out 11 Pirates in six innings Thursday night. Oh, and Jacob deGrom needs to avoid any injury issues from now till the playoffs.
One has to think the hitters will figure it out. They are too good to continue to be in a funk like this. Everything evens out in baseball. They were due to struggle after not being in a funk all season. The trick now is to figure it out sooner rather than later.
Baseball is such a mental grind. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The hitters can’t be affected by their struggles now. They should figure it out.
The Mets played well all season for anyone to compare this slump to the 2007 collapse, which they choked a seven-game division lead to the Philadelphia Phillies by losing 12 of those final 17 games of the season that had them watching the postseason at home. It’s insulting to this year’s team to even say this is a collapse. By getting 90 wins, the Mets should be good enough to get at least five or six more wins. 96 wins should be enough to have them in the playoffs. This isn’t a collapse.
If the Mets make it as a wild-card team, credit the Braves for being good enough to do their job of winning games by beating the teams they should be beating and beating the Mets.
Shame on Mets fans if they thought this was going to be smooth sailing. Baseball doesn’t work that way, and the Braves won the World Series last year for anyone to count them out.
Despite the Mets’ struggles, they can still win the NL East. It’s there. Players need to have that something extra to help them get over their funk. In a long season, everyone is going to be tired. It’s that time of the year. Still, this team has enough character to get through it.
The saying in sports is you are not as good as you are and you are not as bad as you are.
The Mets can change all this in a hurry by going on a run. They have one more run in them. They have given us passionate baseball all season long. It would be foolish to count them out.
Maybe Thursday night could be the start of something or it could be a tease.
This comes with the territory when the Mets are in survival mode as they head to the finish line.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6