Believe It: Mets Arrive Home With Winning Record
Somehow — after enduring a cross-country trip, no days off, an exhausted bullpen, two extra-inning games, a meltdown by closer Jose Valverde, a ghastly start by Bartolo Colon and injuries to two of their starting outfielders — the Mets arrive home from a nine-game road trip with a winning record.
A sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks brings the Mets back to Citi Field with an 8-7 record that most in baseball probably hardly notice. But it’s there. The Mets are not a disaster. No, not yet. Not at all. Flawed? You bet. But nonetheless in a lot better shape than anyone probably figured they’d be after two-and-a-half weeks.
The most discouraging development among several discouraging aspects of the 6-3 trip through Atlanta, Anaheim and Arizona is the pulled hamstring that landed center fielder Juan Lagares on the disabled list. It’s no exaggeration to state that Lagares has been the Mets’ best player through their first 15 games, his wondrous defense complemented by a .314 batting average, quality at-bats, extra-base hits to all fields and a commitment to all-out hustle that is evident to anyone paying attention.
Alas, the day Lagares went on the DL, frequent flyer Kirk Nieuwenhuis came up and went 3-for-5 with a homer, three RBI and two spectacular catches in center field that would rival even Lagares’ best glove work.
Curtis Granderson also missed the last two games of the Arizona series after banging into the right field wall. But Granderson, unlike Lagares, has been a huge drain on the Mets’ offense and the return of Chris Young from a rehab assignment Friday will be intriguing given that he went 5-for-5 with two homers and two doubles in his first game back at Triple-A Las Vegas Sunday (after having a very good spring training for the parent club).
David Wright and Eric Young Jr. appear to be breaking out of slumps, backup catcher Anthony Recker is hitting the way the Mets hope starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud will, and Daniel Murphy is hitting like his old, steady, very reliable self.
It leaves a starting rotation that has been spotty and, even during its good outings, somewhat frustrating. Perfect examples: Jenrry Mejia pitched five shutout innings on Tuesday, when the Mets routed Arizona, 9-0, and really needed some length from their starter after seeing their bullpen exhausted in Anaheim and Atlanta. Instead, Mejia had to come out after five innings with a broken blister on his finger, leaving the ‘pen to absorb four innings instead of one or two. And then, the next day, when the Mets completed their sweep in Phoenix, Dillon Gee sailed through seven innings, allowing three hits and throwing less than 80 pitches—only to be taken out anyway, leaving the bullpen to have to finish with two more innings of work.
Gonzalez Germen and Kyle Farnsworth have pitched very well out of that bullpen so far, and the closer’s role, with Bobby Parnell out until 2015, is something Valverde has no reason to treat like an entitlement. Manager Terry Collins should not hesitate to try Germen, Farnsworth or whoever the hot hand may be to close out games. It doesn’t have to be Valverde, who gave up three home runs in his last two appearances.