Mets Hope to Build on 9-Game Winning Streak at Break
Nine consecutive victories to cut the Philadelphia Phillies' lead to one-half game was the type of run that the Mets needed to erase some of the underachieving they did throughout most of the season. They were able to make up some ground on the top spot in the division and the wild card race by beating teams that they were expected to beat.
Since the end of June, the Mets split four games at St. Louis, and then dropped the first of four in Philadelphia. They haven't lost since. A big 'swing' game came on the 7th, the final game of the road trip, when the Mets nearly blew a nine-run lead and had to hang on by the skin of closer Billy Wagner's teeth, 10-9. Had they let that game get away from them, their ensuing home stand would have had an entirely different feel to it.
Staring at two very beatable opponents, the Mets definitely came to play and swept both San Francisco and Colorado in three-game sets. Their pitching was superb, throwing four shutouts and giving up just four total runs in six contests, culminating in Mike Pelfrey's 7-0 gem on Sunday evening.
All of that good feeling needs to carry over to the second half. The All-Star break came at the wrong time for the Mets, who seemed to be clicking on all cylinders leading up to the mid-summer classic.
Needing to win two more to tie the franchise record, the Mets begin after three days off with a three-game series at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and another opponent they should be able to handle. The Reds are wallowing in fourth place in the National League Central with a 46-50 record.
Easier said than done, the Mets will have to work extra hard to forge ahead and qualify for the postseason. Although manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya seem to have matters under control, it never hurts to hear a few more suggestions:
1- Never Rest on Your Laurels - Even though they were coming off a win, Manuel had the team go through extra stretching and batting practice after the 10-9 game at Philadelphia. The team responded, and if that is what it takes, then keep doing it when necessary.
2- Watch That Temper - Jose Reyes is an amazing talent, but throwing temper tantrums on the field is not the way to build the road to stardom. There are times when he plays as if he's sleepwalking, and that is unacceptable. This is squarely on the shoulders of Manuel and the coaching staff.
3- Keep Those Lines Open - With the trading deadline less than two weeks away, the Mets have made their move in plenty of time to be buyers in the market. Minaya needs to look into acquiring a corner outfielder and starting pitcher, in that order. Losing Moises Alou for the season and Ryan Church being questionable with post-concussion syndrome has made the Mets' outfield a collection of back-ups and converted infielders. When the bubbles burst on Fernando Tatis and Endy Chavez, holes in the lineup will be exposed.
4- No Dog Out of Wags - If the Mets have any hope of making the playoffs, they need Wagner to be the pitcher he was at the beginning of the season, the one who had only one blown save. He gave up the tying run in the eighth inning during the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium and has been shaky at times, but has had eight effective outings in eight of his last 10.
5- Second to None - Damion Easley has fit in quite well as Luis Castillo's replacement and has been a spark at second base. But at 38, he can't be expected to continue at the same pace. Manuel will have an important decision to make when Castillo comes off the disabled list, one that could have ripple effects.