After suffering tough series losses in early August to the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, the NL East lead the New York Mets enjoyed for months had suddenly vanished. Just when the Mets needed a quick rebound to get back in the race, they instead suffered a brutal collapse. New York has lost 18 of its’ last 24 games overall. The return of Francisco Lindor and the potential returns of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard could provide some relief, but it may be too little, too late.
Mets Playoff Hopes in Doubt
To say the schedule has been unkind to the Mets lately would be quite an understatement. A four-series, 13-game stretch against the two best teams in baseball, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, presented a huge challenge for the Mets at the crossroads of their season. Needless to say, it was an unmitigated disaster. Bookended by two sweeps at home, the Mets lost all four series and won only two of the 13 games, both on the road. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves have surged into first place without looking back, at one point winning nine straight games. These opposite runs of luck have left the Mets in third place at 61-66, well back in the NL East.
The Mets have struggled to get clutch hits throughout August, a recurring problem for them all season. The 13-game stretch saw the Mets leave runner after runner on base. In the latest series, for example, New York left 25 runners on as a team while totaling four runs in three games. Seven of the 11 losses to the Giants and Dodgers were by one run. Blowing so many opportunities to win those close games makes the 2-11 stretch that much tougher to swallow.
Can Getting Healthy Save the Season?
Despite the hole they’ve dug themselves, the Mets are getting some good news on the injury front. Shortstop Francisco Lindor returned Tuesday following a nearly six-week stint on the IL with an oblique strain. However, Lindor has started slowly at the plate since his return. He has gone 1-for-10 in his first three games back, leaving seven runners on base. Two key Mets pitchers may also be close to returning. Jacob deGrom has begun throwing again and Noah Syndergaard began a rehab stint with the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones Thursday night. deGrom has been out since July with elbow inflammation, and Syndergaard, recovering from Tommy John surgery, has yet to pitch this season.
If Lindor can come alive offensively, and if deGrom and Syndergaard can step up once healthy, the Mets could chip away at their seven-and-a-half game deficit. The good news is the pitching staff has, more often than not, kept them in the game. If they can continue doing that and the offense suddenly comes alive, the Mets could make a September push. However, the entire offense must improve their situational hitting. It’s not enough to say the Mets admirably stayed close during these 13 games if they lost 11 of them.
For the next two weeks, the Mets will get a golden opportunity to begin recovering from their collapse. Following the gauntlet they just went through, they now get four consecutive series against the bottom-feeders in their own division. Starting Friday night, New York will play three at home against the Washington Nationals, whom they swept for their last series win in mid-August. The homestand will continue with four games against the Marlins. The Mets then hit the road for five in Washington and three in Miami. These are games the Mets should win, and they must win a bunch of them to have any hope. They’ll also need some help from opponents of the Braves and Phillies, but they need to use this stretch to rebound before worrying about that.
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