Surging New York Mets Looking To End Nine-Year Playoff Drought
What a difference a month makes.
On July 2, after yet another excruciating loss in which they struggled to score a single run, the New York Mets appeared to be on the precipice of imploding and falling out of the playoff race. Respected New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro wrote a scathing piece chastising team ownership and General Manager Sandy Alderson for being too cheap to make the upgrades necessary to turn the club around.
Then a surprising thing happened. The club had a successful West Coast trip against the likes of National League powers Los Angeles and San Francisco before the All-Star break.
Then, on July 25, reinforcements began to arrive as third baseman Juan Uribe and utilityman Kelly Johnson were acquired from the Braves for two minor leaguers. The Mets had been desperate for some punch at third since team leader David Wright went down on April 14 with hamstring and back issues.
Youth was added when 22-year-old outfield prospect Michael Conforto joined the mix and immediately contributed.
Then closer Tyler Clippard was obtained to bolster a sagging bullpen. And, finally, last Friday as the MLB trade deadline ended, power hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was pilfered from Detroit. The Mets haven’t lost in the short time since Cespedes has arrived, reeling off five straight victories and eight of their 10.
As a result, New York swept a three-game series from the Washington Nationals over the weekend to leapfrog over the prohibitive division favorites and into first place in the NL East, one game in front. A lineup that was pathetic offensively just a few short weeks ago is now explosive. And Wright may be coming back soon as he begins a rehab stint in the minors next week.
The Mets’ winning formula has been two-fold -- outstanding starting pitching led by Jacob deGrom, suffering no Rookie of the Year hangover with a 2.09 ERA, Matt Harvey, 22-year-old rookie Noah Syndergaard and vets Jonathan Niese and Bartolo Colon – and a stellar home record of 38-18, tied with the Astros for second only to St. Louis.
Unlike the first-place team in the Bronx, no hitter on the Mets will drive in 100 runs as first baseman Lucas Duda tops the club with 50 RBI. Second baseman Daniel Murphy leads the team with a pedestrian .269 batting average. Those numbers are vestiges of the offensive malaise that had enveloped the team for most of the campaign.
But the landscape has changed dramatically. As analyst and former Met Ron Darling has articulated recently, he has never seen a more profound change in such a short time in all his years in the game.
Can the recent upgrades launch the Mets to the playoffs for the first time since 2006? There are still 55 games remaining but optimism among a starved fan base is growing.
Hey, with the Yankees motoring along as well, another Subway Series like 2000 is possible.