MLB Team Report - New York Mets - INSIDE PITCH
NEW YORK -- Mets general manager Sandy Alderson seemed to be employing GM speak -- and/or just putting off the inevitable -- July 7, when he said New York would wait the end of their 10-game homestand on July 13 to decide what to do at the trade deadline.
"Look, let's see where we are at the end of this week," Alderson said.
Lo and behold, the Mets used the week to completely redefine their standing heading into the All-Star break.
The Mets cruised past the Miami Marlins, 9-1, on July 13 to complete an 8-2 homestand in which New York clicked in every facet of the game.
Right-hander Jacob deGrom's seven innings of one-run ball in the first half finale marked the eighth time a Mets starter pitched into the seventh inning on the homestand and lowered the composite ERA of Mets starters to 3.67.
"This game is always going to be about getting people out," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Where we've hung in there, in all these close games we keep talking about, (is) because our pitching staff doesn't get blown out."
The Mets were doing the blowing out over the last 10 days of the first half -- during which they won five games by three runs or more -- thanks to a long-dormant lineup that busted out for 55 runs and 40 extra-base hits, including 10 homers.
The top half of the Mets' lineup -- right fielder Curtis Granderson, second baseman Daniel Murphy, third baseman David Wright, first baseman Lucas Duda and catcher Travis d'Arnaud -- combined to hit .291 on the 10-game homestand. In addition, the quintet accounted for 20 of the 26 homers the Mets hit in the final 25 games before the All-Star Break.
But it was the Mets' situational hitting and willingness to play small ball that really impressed Collins and has him believing the Mets can continue building momentum once play resumes on July 18.
Of the 55 runs the Mets scored on the homestand, 28 came with two outs.
"It goes back to the situational hitting that we talked about all the first half," Collins said. "It's about guys knowing what to do. It's about execution. And right now we're executing.
"So is it sustainable? Absolutely."
And in the finale on July 13, the Mets scored four runs in the eighth inning via four singles, three walks and two stolen bases.
"I think that for us to be successful, we can't necessarily sit back and rely on home runs," Wright said. "We've got to put ourselves in position to be aggressive and put pressure on the defense."
Armed with a solid pitching staff and a suddenly robust offense, the goal for the Mets in the second half is to put pressure on NL East co-leaders Atlanta and Washington. The Mets (45-50) will begin play July 18 seven games behind the Braves and Nationals -- a sizable gap, to be sure, but one the Mets feel they can make up after gaining three games in the standings during the homestand.
Wright said nearly sweeping a four-game set from the Braves from July 7-10 -- the Mets won the first three games before dropping the finale -- has the Mets believing they can do more than just play spoiler come September.
"I think that Braves series gave us a lot of confidence," Wright said. "We know that they're both very talented teams and teams that have a lot of household names. And we might not be there yet. But we're playing very, very good baseball and we plan on giving them a run for their money."
With 19 games remaining against the Braves and Nationals, the Mets will certainly have the opportunity to make up that ground. They also play the sub-.500 Marlins and Phillies a total of 16 times, as well as 13 other games against the Padres, Cubs, Rockies and Astros, all of whom reached the All-Star Break with losing records.
The Mets have no margin for error in their pursuit of a long-shot playoff berth (they also hit the All-Star Break 6 1/2 games behind in the race for the second wild card). But if they can maintain the level of play they showed in ending the first half, they'll at least have offered signs of tangible progress this season -- at the least.
"My expectations when I came to spring training were pretty good," Collins said. "I knew we could compete. We had to do a lot of things right if we were going to compete, but I knew we could. And what we've shown the last 10 days is yes we can compete. Now, we've got 67 more games. We've got to go out and do it. We can't just talk about it. We've got to go do it.
"If we continue to play like this, September's going to be a fun month."
MLB Team Report - New York Mets:
STREAK: Won three
FIRST-HALF MVP: Defensive flaws and a rising price tag mean 2B Daniel Murphy may not be a long-term building block, but an All-Star first-half proved why the Mets need to find more players like Murphy. In addition to bringing intensity, durability and an unyielding work ethic, Murphy is a pure hitter who is unfazed by homer-unfriendly Citi Field. He is on pace to hit at least .285 with 35-plus doubles for a third straight year, and he is likely to rank among the NL's top three in hits for a second consecutive season.
FIRST-HALF GRADE: C -- The Mets are the student who spares himself a failing grade by cramming furiously for and then acing the final exam. The starting pitching was legitimate all season, and the bullpen was bolstered once management gave up on the Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth experiments and went with the kids -- RHPs Vic Black, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, the latter of whom has 10 saves since transitioning from the rotation. While it remains to be seen if the Mets actually solved their situational hitting woes while ending the first half with an 8-2 homestand, they look like a team that can take a step forward this season, whether by flirting with .500 or making a run at a playoff berth.
PIVOTAL POST-BREAK PLAYER: The Mets are enamored with C Travis d'Arnaud's defense as well as his budding leadership skills. If his first-half offensive finish (.295 with three homers and 10 RBIs since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas on June 24) is a sign of things to come, then the Mets have the homegrown backstop every team wants -- as well as trade bait, given that the best position prospect in the chain is C Kevin Plawecki, who was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas last month.
BUY OR SELL: RHP Bartolo Colon, 41, could be dealt to a team focusing on winning this year. Otherwise, the Mets don't have many veterans to offer other than 2B Daniel Murphy, who is unlikely to go anywhere during the season. LHP Jonathon Niese and RHP Dillon Gee certainly would have value to contenders, but their injuries this season reminded the Mets how necessary it is to retain rotation depth. For the most part, the Mets likely will stand pat in hopes of making a playoff run without impeding the long-term plan.
INJURY STATUS: LHP Jonathon Niese hopes to return from a left shoulder strain shortly after the All-Star break, which would restore the pitching staff to full strength. The Mets' everyday players largely were healthy except for CF Juan Lagares, whose emergence was hampered by a pair of DL stints, and C Travis d'Arnaud, who missed almost two weeks with a concussion. RHPs Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell are both recovering from Tommy John surgery.
TOP PROSPECT: Most believed RHP Noah Syndergaard would reach the majors in June, but the 21-year-old was slowed at Triple-A Las Vegas by a right elbow injury, a left shoulder injury and the hitter-friendly conditions of the Pacific Coast League. Manager Terry Collins said Syndergaard (7-4, 5.31 ERA) might not even be recalled in September, but his star hasn't dimmed -- he appeared in the Futures Game for the second consecutive year Sunday, when he earned the save. The Mets likely will want him to get his feet wet over the final month in anticipation of beginning next year in the rotation.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Now what we have to do is go out and play like we did this homestand. You're not going to do it every night. But for the most part, if you play consistent, play smart fundamental baseball, we'll get back in the hunt." -- Mets manager Terry Collins
MLB Team Report - New York Mets - ROSTER REPORT
--LHP Jonathon Niese (left shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 5. He underwent an MRI exam July 7 that revealed inflammation in his A/C joint. He was prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. He threw July 10, and the Mets hope he can return for the second series following the All-Star break (July 21-23).
--C Taylor Teagarden (left hamstring strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 22. He began on a rehab assignment with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets on July 12.
--RHP Matt Harvey (Tommy John surgery in October 2013) went on the 60-day disabled list March 30. He threw from 120 feet May 9. Harvey was supposed to throw off a mound on June 10 but the Mets wanted to slow his rehab a bit. He threw long-toss June 19. He hopes to pitch in September.
--RHP Jeremy Hefner (Tommy John surgery in August 2013) joined the Mets in Miami to do rehab work on May 6. He threw off a mound for the first time since his operation on June 10, when he threw 15 pitches at the Mets' spring training complex. He hopes to rejoin the major league club before the end of the season.
--RHP Bobby Parnell (Tommy John surgery in April 2014) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 1, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 14. He will miss the entire season.