Perhaps, it’s Chase Utley’s fault.
Heading into play on May 28 tied for first place, David Wright had homered in three straight games and Citi Field was bathed in goodwill as the 1986 champion Mets were honored on the field prior to the Mets game with the Dodgers. Then with the cheers still echoing in the hearts of the fans, Mets ace Noah Syndergaard was stunningly tossed from the game in the third inning by the home plate umpire after an errant pitch to Chase Utley.
Then like the uninvited ex-boyfriend who crashes the cocktail hour and spoils the wedding reception, Utley homered twice and five relief pitchers later, the Mets had lost 9-1 on their way to losing 10 of their next 16 games and falling into second place, five games behind the Nationals.
Of course, there are less karmatic and more mundane reasons for the Mets current struggles, namely a sputtering offense that has been aggravated by numerous injuries to the starting lineup. Despite being third in home runs among NL teams, the Mets are 12th and 13th in batting average and runs scored in the NL. Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda have been on the disabled since late April and May, respectively, and their replacements have struggled to match them in the lineup.
David Wright’s homering for the third time in three games on May 27 may turn out to be his final game of 2016. Wright, who deals daily with his spinal stenosis condition, was disabled with a herniated disk in his neck and it was announced by the Mets on June 14 that Wright was considering neck surgery that could end his season. Commenting on Wright’s situation, GM Sandy Alderson said, “I always prefer certainty over uncertainty, so having some resolution will be helpful. False hope is never useful, or not often useful. We like to be pragmatic.”
Meanwhile, outfielder Michael Conforto and second baseman Neil Walker are dealing with injuries while trying to avoid the disabled list. The 23-year old Conforto has batted only .150 since May 1 and on June 14 he received a cortisone shot to deal with sprained cartilage in his left wrist. “The plan right now is just to take a day or two to let the shot sink in and take effect,” Conforto said.
Walker, who is second on the team in home runs with 13, is day to day since leaving Saturday’s game in Milwaukee with a lower back issue. Speaking after the injury, Walker said, “Everytime I’ve had something like this, it’s two, three days and I’m good to go but I have to fully let it calm down.”
The Mets had a scare in Milwaukee when manager Terry Collins needed to be hospitalized after feeling “disoriented” prior to Sunday’s game against the Brewers. Tests on Collins, baseball’s oldest manager, were negative and the 67-year old skipper was released the next day and back in the dugout for Tuesday 4-0 loss to the Pirates at Citi Field.
The Mets, who are in the midst of an eight game homestand, enter play on Wednesday, June 15 in second place in the NL East with a record of 34 – 29, five games behind the first place Nationals.