BY JOE RINI
In recent years, optimism has not exactly been a frequent flyer companion for the New York Mets on flights out of LaGuardia Airport. Considering the Mets had a better record away from Citi Field from 2011 to 2013, hitting the road often seemed to be the place to nurse the wounds ailing them at home. In fact, the team managed to play one game over .500 on the road in 2013 despite finishing with a 74-88 record overall.
Yet, when the 2014 season seemed on the precipice of irrelevancy after a 1-6 road trip, Terry Collins’ crew put together the franchise’s best homestand in the young history of Citi Field, streaking to eight wins in 10 games, and rode a wave of optimism into the All-Star break as the team rested at the edge of the wildcard race.
Unfortunately, the team has stumbled figuratively and literally in the early games out of the break. Embarking on a difficult 10 game, three city road trip, the Mets won the opener 5-4 on Friday against San Diego on a clutch ninth inning run-scoring hit by Travis d’Arnaud but lost two out of three overall to the Padres when reliever Josh Edgin stumbled out of his pitching follow through and could not field a two-out walk-off infield hit in Sunday’s 2-1 loss at PetCo Park.
The Amazins subsequently dropped the opener to American League wildcard contending Seattle 5-2 on Monday before winning the middle of three on Tuesday by a score of 3-1 behind seven strong innings from rookie Jacob deGrom. With four games looming against first place Milwaukee this weekend, the road back in Citi Field on July 28 could be bumpy and could also determine how aggressive the Mets are at the July 31 trade deadline.
Regarding whether the Mets will be buyers at the trade deadline, GM Sandy Alderson stated before the trip, “It was nice to go 8-2, but we’ve got a lot of ground to make up. It will be important to put wins on the board the rest of the way. I think that will give us a good idea.”
Although the offense has sputtered at the start of this west coast swing with the Mets scoring only 11 runs in the first five games, dArnaud and Lucas Duda have continued their hot hitting of late. Duda clubbed his team leading 15th home-run in Tuesday’s win and d’Arnaud has batted .309 since his call-up from Triple-A, cashing in on several clutch RBI opportunities along the way.
In picking up his fourth victory on Tuesday, deGrom has continued his recent stellar pitching, with a 3-0 record and 0.86 ERA since July 8. Speaking of deGrom, Terry Collins said, “He’s always flown under the radar — still is. This guy’s got numbers to match up with any rookie in the league and you never hear his name mentioned.”
The Mets enter play on Wednesday at the 100 game mark in fourth place with a record of 47-53, seven games out of a wildcard spot. The Mets return to Citi Field on Monday July 28 for three games against division rival Philadelphia before playing four games against San Francisco Giants to start the month of August.