Winning and losing creates a perception of a team in any level of sports.
Prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Mets had lost 16 of 22, which had fans and some in the local media wondering if they had quit on manager Buck Showalter.
The Mets managed to take the series against the Rays after a 3-2 victory Thursday afternoon at Citi Field. This comes after they had their best win of the season by coming back a couple of times to tie it and eventually earning an 8-7 win on Pete Alonso’s three-run home run in the tenth inning on Wednesday night.
The same folks who wondered if the Mets quit are now wondering if the team is back on track.
Perception could have clouded one’s thinking, as shown during the recent stretch and the last two games. When a team loses, it’s easy to wonder if they are going to win again. When a team wins, fans get excited.
About a quarter of the way through the 2023 season, the Mets are 22-23. They are on pace to win 81 games.
We will be kind and say the Mets are a work in progress. The reality is we don’t really know what they are. As Showalter mentioned to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman prior to Wednesday night’s game, his team is far removed from last year’s team, for whom everything went their way until September.
The Mets are going through adversity so far. They haven’t been hitting, and they haven’t been pitching. This is why their record is based on merit. They are what their record says they are. It’s hard to say if they are going to be like this all year.
The offense won’t be this bad all year, and with the injection of youth from players such as Brett Baty, Francisco Alvarez, Mark Vientos and eventually Ronny Mauricio. The offense can be even better than what we are seeing, which means we will see less of Daniel Vogelbach and Tommy Pham, who are showing they are wastes of a roster space by contributing very little. To be fair to Pham, he did get the RBI single by legging out a hit that gave the Mets a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, which turned out to be the difference-maker.
Eventually, Mark Canha and Starling Marte will be productive. They are not going to struggle all year. I am not that optimistic about Francisco Lindor, whose best days may be behind him considering that in his two years as a Met, he has not been the player he was for the then-Cleveland Indians.
Alonso will be streaky as always like most home run hitters that don’t do well in batting average. The Mets have to live with it, knowing he will produce as he did against the Rays when he homered to win the game on Wednesday and then homered to give the Mets a 2-1 lead on Thursday.
The starting rotation is where the Mets have to be concerned. It’s an aging rotation. Entering Friday night's game against the Cleveland Guardians, the rotation pitched to a 5.29 ERA. Justin Verlander (4.76 ERA) and Max Scherzer (4.88 ERA) are likely going to fluctuate from good outings to awful outings. That comes with being an aging starter. Kodai Senga should be effective. At this point, he may be the ace of the staff.
Tylor Megill has shown he can pitch based on what he did last season before he had a shoulder injury and what he did in his recent outing against the Rays by allowing two runs and four hits in six innings. There are questions being raised about how effective Carlos Carrasco will be after being on the injured list with elbow swelling. Jose Quintana suffered a rib fracture in spring training, and he is not expected back until July.
There's not much there when it comes to starting rotation depth. David Peterson was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse after posting an 8.08 ERA and 1.74 WHIP over 39 innings in his eight starts. Joey Lucchesi had a 6.46 ERA in his last four outings with the Mets, which explains why he got demoted to Triple-A Syracuse.
The bullpen doesn’t have much depth, and that’s a problem since the starters can’t go deep in games. Outside of Brooks Raley, Drew Smith and David Robertson, who can Showalter trust out there in relief?
That’s why as great as those two wins were this week, the Mets have a long ways to go until they are really on track.
It was important they won on Thursday just to validate Wednesday’s win. The next step back to recovery is going on a long winning streak and getting back to .500. Once June arrives, the Mets hope they can get a restart and go from there.
Here’s the problem with that: June promises not to be easy as the Mets play the Braves at Atlanta along with the Yankees and defending World Series champion Houston Astros. It just might be that they have to stay afloat next month like they are trying to do to finish out May.
It could be July or August that will be telling for how the Mets go from there.
They are fortunate the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies have not taken off, so they are not in bad shape yet. They can turn it around. It’s hard to believe the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks will sustain their great start.
But the Mets had better get their starting pitching figured out one way or another.
If not, there will not be playoffs, and we will forget those two impressive wins against the Rays at home when the season is over.
You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
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