Ok, I’m confused. The Mets looks like a competent, productive, fundamentally sound baseball team. A real-live major league team. Who are these guys? What happened? Has the front office embarrassed the organization so much that the players took it upon themselves to decide that somebody had to act professionally around here? Yes, they lost the second game of last night’s double dip, and there were a couple of flashbacks to their previous sloppy play (note to Mets: do not, I repeat, do not try to steal home), but for the most part, the on-the-field, Three Stooges-like follies have ended (at least for now) and have been replaced by a team that is doing everything right.
The Mets have won five out of their last six, and if it’s a matter of too little, too late, at least the Mets are worth watching again (not that I ever stopped watching – we just can’t help ourselves, can we?). Nobody’s falling down. Nobody’s pants have fallen off. Nobody’s been arrested. Nobody’s shot himself. Nobody’s been outed for steroid use. Nobody on the team has been blamed for Michael Jackson‘s death (yet). Off the field, the team has been a circus, but on the field, it’s been an amazing week for the Amazin’s. Each aspect of the team is firing on all cylinders – offense, defense, starting pitching and the bullpen.
You have no chance to win if you don’t have consistently solid starting pitching, and the Mets had that this week. In the last six games, the whole staff gave up only 13 runs. They combined for two shutouts in a row, with Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey giving back-to-back outstanding efforts. Livan Hernandez recovered from allowing three runs in the first inning against Houston to win his game. Jon Niese had one great start and one that gave his team a chance to win. Which only leaves Oliver Perez. The expectations are now so low for him, that if he lasts more than three innings and the Mets win the game, his start is a success. The only runs given up by the bullpen in the last six games came when Frankie Rodriguez coughed up a two-run homer in a blowout and Brian Stokes let an inherited runner score last night (every time Stokes has a godd outing, he sticks another pin in the Billy Wagner voodoo doll he keeps in his locker). With that kind of quality pitching, you have a chance to win every day.
The offense has come out of nowhere and exploded for 38 runs in their last six games. Where have they been hiding? Watching Angel Berroa play major league baseball has made me long for the Wilson Valdez era, but even he drove in a couple of runs yesterday. The team has hit six long balls in the last six games, which may not be much for any other team, but for the Mets it’s like they turned into the ’27 Yankees. The biggest shot was, of course, Fernando Tatis‘ grand slam. Jeff Francoeur drove in 10 runs this past week, Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo set the table, and even David Wright hit a homer, along with getting a few hits in almost every game. The whole team’s approach at the plate has changed. They’re moving runners over and taking each at-bat according to the situation at hand – just like a real team would.
On defense, they’re making all the plays they’re supposed to make. They only made one error in their last six games. They’re hitting the cutoff man, and turning double plays left and right. Daniel Murphy looks fantastic at first. He’s always looking to get the lead runner, and he keeps piling up the highlight-reel plays. First base looks like his natural position, which is a far cry from his laughable days patrolling left field.
Climbing over seven teams in the Wild Card race is a tough task, but the Mets have a somewhat easy schedule coming up, so they need to take advantage of it. Will last night’s loss lead to a downhill slide? Or is that just a blip on the radar screen with more solid, winning play to continue? Were these just imposters the last six games? We’ll know the answer when they take on the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend.
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