BY JOE RINI
Whether it’s because of the increasing beach traffic, graduation parties, or perhaps the approaching summer solstice, the bats of the New York Mets have cooled as the temperatures have heated for the second June in a row. Since moving to within a game of .500 on June 2nd after taking four out of five games from rival Philadelphia, the Amazins have dropped 11 of 14 games, bookending a 3-3 homestand with sweeps on the road by Chicago, San Francisco, and St. Louis.
A lack of offense has undone the Mets at various times during this recent stretch of games. Before homering and doubling in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Cardinals, David Wright had seen his average drop from .296 to .262 while outfielder Chris Young has battled to stay above .200. The absence of second year centerfielder Juan Lagares to the disabled list when he was one of the top offensive performers on the team has also adversely affected the Mets of late.
Struggles with men on base has also plagued the Mets this season; in fact, after catching call-up Taylor Teagarden keyed a 6-2 Mets victory over Milwaukee on June 10 with a grand slam in his Mets debut, manager Terry Collins joked in his postgame press conference, “He hasn’t been here. He didn’t know you’re not supposed to get a hit,” because the Mets opened the season batting .159 in those situations.
A year ago this week, the Mets fell to the depths of 2013 when their record dropped to 25-40 but help came in the form of “youth and young” on June 18, 2013 when the Mets called up the highly touted Zack Wheeler and competed a trade for Eric Young Jr. Wheeler defeated Atlanta in his debut, finishing the season with seven victories in 12 decisions while Young solidified the lead-off
spot and finished the season as the National League’s stolen base champ, with the Mets playing a respectable 49-48 from that point forward.
Is there reason for a similar rebound this year? If so, pitching will be a key factor. Mets starters are tied for the fourth most quality starts in major leagues this season and that will have to continue. The bullpen’s performance has been spotty at times with 17 losses so far this but newly crowned closer Jennry Mejia has converted seven saves in eight opportunities while righty reliever Vic Black has impressed since his call-up from Triple-A Las Vegas.
Also, the aforementioned Eric Young Jr.’s return to the line-up following a stint on the disabled list should help the offense as will the continued return of Curtis Granderson to being Curtis Granderson. Since starting slowly in April, Granderson has hit 8 home runs and batted .284 since May 1.
A Mets trivia question was created on June 16 when rookie pitcher Jason deGrom became the first Mets pitcher to start the game batting eighth in the line-up. Said Terry Collins, “We just thought it was a good day to try it, and we’ll see if it works.”
The Mets are in the midst of playing 25 of 33 games on the road, so they will return to Citi Field long enough to check their mail and pick up their laundry when they play the Oakland A’s at home on June 24 & 25 before hitting the road for seven games.