Well that felt good.
Jason Bay returned, David Wright homered, Mets pitching allowed just one run on seven hits and Terry Collins got ejected in the first inning en route to a 9-1 Met victory over the Houston Astros. The run total matched the team’s highest this season and was one of the better pitched games as well. Even with Angel Pagan forced to leave the game due to injury, everything seemed to go right for the Amazins last night, including Hunter Pence’s four-base error. It was a great night for the team. Now do it again.
Even with the win, the Mets still own the worst record in all of baseball at 6-13. They rank in the bottom half of all Major League teams in batting average (.239-20th), on-base percentage (.308-22nd), slugging percentage (.378-18th) and home runs (14-22nd) while being at the top of the strikeout list (156-3rd). Pitching isn’t much better, with the team’s ERA (4.95-28th), home runs allowed (21-7th), walk total (78-2nd) and WHIP (1.56-30th) all being among the worst in the majors. They just lost two out of three games at home to the Astros, a team who shared the Mets record entering the series and now welcome in the Arizona Diamondbacks, who enter with a record of 8-9 and just took two out of three from the Cincinnati Reds. Although a weekend series vs. Arizona might not seem important, the next three games are critical.
When the home stand began, I thought that if the Mets could take four of six, they’d be in relatively good shape (9-13) before hitting the road. They can still reach this goal, although it would now require a sweep. At this point I’d settle for taking two out of three, given how the team has been playing with exception to last night, but even that would go a long way toward helping the Mets in the marathon that is the season.
For one, it would give them some confidence, something that was undoubtedly shattered during the seven game losing streak in which the Mets blew leads and failed to produce offensively. As hackneyed as it may sound, confidence breeds success, and losing day after day in the fashion that the Mets were has to take a toll on the psyche. Putting together a streak of even a few wins, or taking the final three of four on the home stand would do wonders for the team’s confidence.
Perhaps more importantly, it would do good things for the fan’s confidence. I attended this past Wednesday’s game at Citi Field and it was not a pretty sight. Never in the past decade or so have I seen a Met home game, Shea or Citi, so sparsely attended (and I went to some games during the Art Howe era). There was literally no one sitting in the left field bleachers in the 400 or 500 level (I don’t think I remember anyone in the 300 level either, but I might’ve blocked that out). The line at Shake Shack wasn’t even that long! In all honestly, it was a little depressing, even for a mid-week night game against the Astros. However, the fans that did show up were vocal. They cheered, booed and collectively stared in disbelief when Jose Reyes was doubled off first base following Josh Thole’s failed bunt attempt in the ninth. But they showed emotion (myself included) and wanted to root for the Mets-they just needed a reason.
So now is the Mets’ chance to give it to them. They play three at home against the Diamondbacks before a travel day, and then play at Washington (9-9) and Philadelphia (12-6). In the span of nine games, the Mets can offer some proof to fans that they can win at home, beat a team with an average record on the road and maybe take a series at Philly. Taking two out of three in each series would result in a 12-16 record before returning home to play the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. By that point, the excuse that “it’s only April” will no longer be valid: it will be May.
I’m not trying to say that the Mets will suddenly go 18-1, or that they won’t be sellers at the deadline or that in the long run they will be in the playoff race come September. What’s desperately needed though is some competitiveness, so that fans will attend games and tune in because they think the Mets have a chance of winning. Last night, the Mets powered and pitched their way to victory and gave me the slimmest of hopes that they can do it again. And the team can’t afford, in more ways than one, for the fans to lose hope.