The past week has been pretty tumultuous for Met fans. Fred Wilpon made several disparaging remarks about the team and certain players in The New Yorker, David Einhorn will become a minority investor in the team and oh yeah, the Mets have dropped four of their last six, including two to the Yankees and two to the Cubs. The loss dropped the Mets to 23-26 on the season, 7.5 games behind the first place Phillies and 6.5 back in the Wild Card, trailing the Florida Marlins and five other tightly bunched teams. Particularly maddening is that just last week, the Amazins had reached the .500 mark by winning ten of fourteen, but recently have begun to slump. With a ten game homestand beginning today, I am going to write myself into a state of optimism.
The Mets welcome the Phillies for three games, the Pittsburgh Pirates for four and the Atlanta Braves for three over the next ten days. As it so happens, the ten day weather forecast looks incredible: nothing but sun and temperatures ranging from the low 60s to the mid 80s, quite the contrary from what the Mets played in the last time they were home and the dreadful weather in Chicago. For the next ten days, the Mets’ focus needs to be on baseball and baseball only, and they need a 7-3 homestand, and although it will be tough, it’s doable.
I’ll start with the Phillies, who are by no means invincible. The Mets get a little lucky in that they miss Roy Hallady and Cliff Lee in the series, instead drawing Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley. Yes, Oswalt and and Hamels are great in their own right, and Worley had a good outing vs. the Mets last time, but I’d rather these three than Halladay and Lee. The sample size against Worley is limited, but the Mets have actually handled Oswalt and Hamels in the past. Against Oswalt, Jason Bay is 11-31, Jose Reyes is 9-32 and Carlos Beltran is 9-24 with a homer. Versus Hamels, who the Mets hit hard earlier this season, Reyes is 10-34, Beltran is 10-33 with three home runs, and Scott Hairston (yes, Scott Hairston) is 6-18 with three long balls. Could either one of these guys throw a shutout and throw these numbers out the window? Sure, because they are both that good, but it is a little encouraging to see that some Mets have had success against them.
The Mets will counter with Chris Capuano, Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese. Of note, the Phillies as a team are hitting .246/.313/.383 vs. lefties (with Ryan Howard batting just a .197 and Jimmy Rollins at .218). Both Capuano and Niese are coming off rough starts, but Capuano was pitching in Yankee Stadium when he allowed four home runs, and Niese had to contend with shoddy defense. As for Pelfrey, despite his seventh inning falter in his last start, he’s been much improved as of late, posting a 3.29 ERA and 1.134 WHIP over his last four outings.
After dealing with the Phils, Pittsburgh (22-26) comes to town. The Pirates are not the laughably bad team they have been in some recent years; they have talent in the form of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata. Still, if the Mets are going to make some noise, they are going to have to beat up on teams with similar or worse records than them, and the Pirates fall into this category.
Finally, the Braves (28-23) make their first trip to Citi Field next weekend. As usual, they are getting by on their pitching, which ranks second in ERA and first in both WHIP and batting average against. Offensively though, they have scored just three more runs this season than the Mets, and the three games played earlier this season were all relatively close contests. With Jason Heyward on the disabled list and Dan Uggla struggling, the Mets might be able to neutralize the Braves’ offense enough to push home a couple of runs against their stellar pitching staff.
I’m not saying achieving this record will be easy. After all, R.A. Dickey, who finally seemed to be finding a groove, suffered an injury during yesterday’s game, and neither Ike Davis nor David Wright have a specific timetable as to when they will return. However, Angel Pagan is set to return tonight which should help the offense, and once Ike starts cutting on his ankle, it shouldn’t be long before he returns as well. As for Wright, I would imagine he will need another week. It is possible for both Davis and Wright to return by the end of the homestand.
A 7-3 mark over the next ten games would put the team’s overall record at 30-29, above .500 for the first time since the Mets were 3-2. It will be difficult to keep their heads above water with Wright and Davis missing, but the Mets are 4-5 thus far with both of them out, which all things considered isn’t that bad. A great homestand could vault the Mets back in contention into the first week of June, while a rough one could quickly turn the Mets into sellers. I may be an optimist at times, but maybe for the next ten days, the Mets, and consequently their season going forward, will resemble the weather: bright and sunny.