Thursday, June 10, 2021

A Third of the Way Home

When the New York Mets began play in June, I was cautiously optimistic but nonetheless worried about their chances. June has been a harsh month for the Mets in recent years, and the club was embarking on a difficult part of the schedule with a still quite depleted roster. They've survived the first third of the month pretty well with their 5-4 road trip. That they were able to come back and win the last two against the San Diego Padres was particularly gratifying.

Even more significant was their ability to score some runs. After averaging 2.9 runs per game in April and 4.19 in May, the Mets are up to 5.25 RPG so far in June. Although that number is likely to come down a little against the better pitching teams, we're less likely to see the club get shut down by mediocre pitching as much as they were early in the season.

The Mets are not only a third of the way through the challenging month of June. With 54 games completed, they are one-third of the way through their 162-game schedule. Maintaining their current pace would give them 90 wins on the season, which should be their minimum goal. There's a long way to go, but so far, so good.

Next up for the Mets are 3 with the Padres and 4 with the Cubs at Citi Field. After that, it's 4 games in 3 days vs. the Nationals, then they're home for 4 games in 3 days vs. the Braves. Two weeks from today, they get their final off-day before the All-Star break. Then they finish their homestand with 4 games in 3 days against the Phillies. They hit the road with a single makeup game in Washington on Monday, a 3-game set in Atlanta from Tuesday-Thursday, and then play a 3-game set in Yankee Stadium over the July 4 weekend. They're home for 3 against the Brewers and 4 against the Pirates, then the 4-day All-Star break for any Met not in the game.

That's a really tough schedule, and it's not the end of all the make-up games imposed by weather and MLB's dubious decision to cancel the entire season-opening series against Washington. The Mets have a July 26 doubleheader in Atlanta and another on August 31 at home against the Marlins. Game one is actually the resumption of the suspended game from April 11 that Marcus Stroman was quite angry about even starting. It will resume in the top of the first with the Marlins batting, a man on first and one out.

After that doubleheader on the final day of August, the Mets will finally be all caught up with where they should be in the schedule. That's assuming, of course, there aren't any new weather postponements between now and then. Since there are very few domed ballparks, that's not a given, though rainouts tend to happen more often in the spring and fall than in the heart of the summer.

The Mets gave some sign that they could compete against strong opponents by winning those last two in San Diego. I'd love to see them continue that trend by playing well in the upcoming homestand against the Padres and Cubs. One of April's most discouraging setbacks was how poorly they played in Chicago when they were swept by the Cubs. It would be nice to see the Mets play at a much higher level in those 4 games coming up.

Even though the Braves and Phillies haven't been very consistent and the Nationals haven't been very good, those 3 consecutive series with 4 games in 3 days will be tough. It will not only be a test of the Mets' questionable starting pitching depth beyond Jacob deGrom, Stroman, and Taijuan Walker, it will likely test the resiliency of the team to win some games by outscoring rather than outpitching their opponents. Barring a surprising trade, it seems likely that the Mets will continue to roll out David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi throughout this stretch unless one of them gets hurt or completely implodes.

While I want to be careful to read too much into a 5-4 road trip, I did like to see the resiliency the Mets displayed in each stop. They lost a tough opener against the Diamondbacks yet came back to win the other two. They dropped two winnable games to start the Padres series yet came back for the split. Finally, they had their asses handed to them in the first game in Baltimore but came back to win convincingly yesterday. This sort of resiliency is absolutely required going forward if the Mets are to be a playoff team.

They'll be tested continually between now and the All-Star break in the quality of many of their opponents and the sheer number of games they have to play. Good teams answer those challenges as the Mets have managed to do so far. Previously promising Mets teams have been buried by extended stretches of bad play where they just couldn't turn things around. I like their chances in this area based on what I've seen so far. With so many games piled up so quickly, they can't afford a significant stretch of poor play, so this is important.

Please be well and take care.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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