Here they come again. After spans of terrible baseball, the New York Mets are back to four games under .500 (29-33) and looking poised to finally become the team they were supposed to be. But what’s changed?
Well, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo both pitching seven complete innings in their returns is a great start. What’s even better is that their starts may have lit a fire through the rest of the pitching staff. Last night, facing off against the defending world champion Cubs, Jacob deGrom pitched a complete game for just the second time in his career. Allowing just one run over a full nine innings, deGrom struck out six while controlling the game with his off-speed pitches – the same thing Matz and Lugo did against the Braves.
The two young arms who returned from injuries in the final two games of the Braves series were overshadowed by the return of Yoenis Cespedes, who hit a grand slam in his first game back. Matz allowed just one run and one walk over seven innings. In the very next game, Lugo went a full seven and only allowed one run on six hits and two walks while striking out six. The best part about their returns, neither pitcher needed to throw 100 pitches (Matz 98, Lugo 90).
Another reason to be optimistic is the newfound defense the Mets are playing. Despite being aging infielders, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes both made spectacular plays to back deGrom last night. Leading off the top of the seventh, Willson Contreras had a hit through the hole between shortstop and third base before Reyes stretched twice as far as his body should have allowed him to in order to rob the hit. Then, on the very next play, Cabrera slid into the same hole, popped up like a 10-year-younger version of himself, and threw a strike across the diamond to get Javier Bias by a step, which took a review to correct. Coming off the heels of a dropped high pop against the Brewers and a tough defensive weekend in Atlanta, last night showed flashes that the left side of the infield could still field their positions until Ahmed Rosario is finally called up.
So, with two games left in the series against the Cubs before having to face the Nationals, Dodgers, and Giants, the Mets need to continue making progress in the field because they’re finally scoring enough runs to win consistently. Who would’ve saw that coming? And tonight will be a great measure on where the Mets actually stand when they face off against Jon Lester, one of the best pitchers in the league, who’s looking for his 150th career win.
Now, if Zack Wheeler can follow the trend of great recent pitching it will set up one of the most interesting scenarios of the season: Matt Harvey pitching with a chance to solidify this rotation and make it five solid starts in a row. And whoever can’t keep this up, Robert Gsellman will have his head peeking through the door.