Up until their unbeaten streak against division foes Washington and Philadelphia, the Mets were playing middling baseball in the month of April. One day the offense was functioning like a well oiled machine, and the next day they couldn’t put two hits together. One day the pitching looks unhittable, and the next nobody can record an out.
With the Philadelphia Phillies having placed MVP Jimmy Rollins and outfielder Shane Victorino on the disabled list, their primary divisional rivals are missing their two table setters. Along with the slow start by Ryan Howard and questions about their bullpen, the Phillies look to be headed in the wrong direction.
Similarly, the Atlanta Braves have caught the injury bug, mainly affecting the pitching staff. Starters Mike Hampton and Tom Glavine have found their way to the disabled list, with relievers Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan accompanying them in the trainer’s room. With slugger Chipper Jones suffering from a bum quad, the Braves may also be headed towards the NL East basement.
Of course, it will be pretty hard to oust the 5-14 Nationals from the cellar. This team of misfits, youngsters, and lost souls seem unable to score runs and with the health of closer Chad Cordero in question, they may have trouble finishing off opponents (the few times they actually are presented with that opportunity).
That leaves the Florida Marlins. Nobody had high hopes for this team, after losing their best hitter, Miguel Cabrera, and pitcher, Dontrelle Willis, over the offseason. With little pitching to speak of, the Marlin offense has managed to carry this team to a record of 11-7.
Whether or not the Marlins can continue playing winning baseball is subject for another article, but one thing is for sure—if the Mets want to pull away from Atlanta and Philadelphia, now is the time.
Entering sunday night’s game against the Phillies, the Mets have given up a Major League-low 57 runs in 16 games—a little more than 3.5 runs per game. David Wright and Ryan Church have been hot all month long, and with Jose Reyes back in the swing of things, the Mets offense is poised to take off.
Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan have been productive as well, with Brian Schneider also chipping in at the plate in addition to behind it. Luis Castillo seems to be responding well to hitting in the bottom of the lineup and may be able to move back up to the number two slot on a regular basis.
Carlos Delgado is struggling after hitting .300 in his first 40 at bats, but help is on the way in the person of Moises Alou. Alou went three-for-three in a rehab game in A-ball and should be able to provide Mr. Delgado with some protection.
Of course, Alou’s return will mean less playing time for Pagan, who has been one of the feel-good stories for the Mets (along with those of pitcher Nelson Figueroa and catcher Raul Casanova). Pagan will provide some versatility from the bench, is able to play all three outfield positions, hit from both sides of the plate, and pinch run if needed.
If the Mets want to start making their surge, they still need to take their weakened opponents seriously. The Phillies still have Cole Hamels in the rotation and guys named Utley, Burrell, and Jenkins in the lineup. The Braves still have guys named Smoltz and Hudson in the rotation, and stud first baseman Mark Teixeira—an aspiring Met-killer.