BY JOE RINI
Following a long stretch of lackluster play which saw the New York Mets drop to a season “high” of 15 games under .500 on June 15, Terry Collins’ crew has rebounded to win 11 of their last 17 games. While the fourth place Mets are only modestly closer to contention in the National League East with a record of 35-45, the improved play at the half way point of the season is a hopeful sign as upcoming All-Star game festivities at Citi Field beckon.
In addition to the continued solid play of David Wright, the Mets offense has been aided by several recent additions from Triple-A Las Vegas. A dramatic walk-off three run homerun by Las Vegas call-up Kirk Nieuwenhuis on June 16 against the Cubs salvaged a homestand and fueled a 7-3 road trip. Highlights of the trip included the taking of three of five games against the first place Braves and the successful debut of pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Even after struggling in his next two starts, Collins remained optimistic on the young right hander.
“Hopefully he relaxes in his next start and it gets him back into a groove to where he’s more comfortable,” Collins said after Wheeler was charged with his first loss on Sunday against the Nationals. “I think he’s realistic to know he’s got the stuff to pitch here, he’s good enough to pitch here.”
Another welcome addition to the Mets has been the play of first baseman Josh Satin. Since being called up from Las Vegas to help replace Ike Davis, Satin has batted .390 in 16 games, including three hit performances against the Nationals and the Doamondbacks. Also, the Mets have been boosted by the recent play of Las Vegas call-ups Omar Quintanilla, Juan Lagares, Andrew Brown, and Eric Young, who was acquired from the Colorado Rockies.
While Matt Harvey continues to dazzle with a record of 7-1 despite a lack of run support or consistent bullpen help, Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner have buoyed the rotation after slow starts. Gee is 4-1 in his last five decisions and Hefner is 3-1 in his last four decisions.
With All-Star balloting nearing its close, Mets captain David Wright appears to be headed for a start at third base before the hometown crowd in his seventh selection to the mid-summer classic while Matt Harvey is a near certainty for a spot on the National League pitching staff in his first full major league season.
Three highly anticipated Mets prospects, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndegaard, and Brandon Nimmo will participate in the Futures Game at Citi Field on July 14 as part of All-Star game weekend. Speaking of his experience in the Futures Game and perhaps his future teammates, Matt Harvey stated, “To have the Futures Game here, and to hopefully in the near future suit up with the big club and play here, that’s a great moment for you. It’s something you should really take in and really enjoy, because hopefully it won’t be too long before you’re up here pitching with us.”
After concluding the current homestand on Thursday, the Mets hit the road for nine games which will take them to the All-Star break before returning to Citi Field on July 19 against the Phillies.