The Mets are fading fast into obscurity as the dog days of summer quickly weed the pretenders out of the playoff race. After getting swept by Arizona the Mets are now the proud owners of a 5 game losing streak- tied for their longest since early April and the 2nd such streak this month. They have fallen 20.5 games out of first place and 11.5 out of the wild card lead, and since the injuries to Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy the Amazins have nose-dived in the NL, going from “long shot” to “no shot.”
It may be too late to get back in the race, but most Mets fans simply want this team to finish at or above .500 this year, a goal that is still very much attainable. They now take their 5 game skid and try to break it against the team that started it- the San Diego Padres. Things were looking up for the Mets in the middle of their 4-game series with the Pads at Citi Field last week. They had won the first 2 games in exciting fashion and had moved back over .500. But they lost the last 2 games of the series, and haven’t won since.
The Padres are in last place in the NL West and have the 3rd worst record in the league- but they have been playing much better of late. They are 7-4 in their last 11 games, and are returning home from a brutal 10 game road trip. San Diego sports a terrible home record with just 23 wins, but they have always fared well against the Mets at Petco Park. In fact, the last time the Amazins won a series in San Diego the Padres were playing in their old home- Qualcomm Stadium.
Overall the offensive numbers look putrid for Bud Black’s team. The Pads rank 25th in runs, 29th in batting average, 28th in on base percentage and a dead last 30th in homeruns. However, the sticks have been mighty in recent weeks. On their road trip San Diego averaged 7 runs a game and hit at a .298 clip. It will be up to the Mets slumping starting pitching to step up and silence the Padres bats again.
8/15/11: R.A. Dickey (5-11, 3.75 ERA) vs. Aaron Harang (11-3, 3.95 ERA)
8/16/11: Jon Niese (11-9, 4.03 ERA) vs. Cory Luebke (4-6, 3.09 ERA)
8/17/11: Dillon Gee (10-4, 4.07 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (6-11, 3.80 ERA)
Padres Player to Watch: Cameron Maybin
The former Marlin/former Tigers prospect has yet to live up to his enormous hype, but maybe he is coming into his own late in 2011. Or maybe he just loves feasts on Mets pitching. Maybin had a great series at Citi Field last week, going 7-18 with a homerun, 3 steals, and 5 runs scored. He used the vast dimensions of the ball park to his speedy advantage, and should be able to do the same at Petco- another notorious pitcher’s park. Maybin seemed to have a confident swagger that was lacking when he was with Florida, and he could be poised for another big series. The key with him is to keep him off first base. He is a lot like Jose Reyes in the fact that he wreaks havoc on the bases, and more often than not when he gets on, he scores.
Mets Player to Watch: Lucas Duda
David Wright has been solid since coming back from the stress fracture and Jason Bay is on his best run as a Met, but one could certainly make the case that the Mets best hitter in August has been Lucas Duda. His confidence seems to be growing with every at-bat, and his performance is as well. After a .300 July, Duda is now hitting .316 in August with 2 HR and 9 RBI. He has 12 hits in 38 at-bats, and many of those base knocks have been clutch. He seems to be a perfect stop gap for the cleanup spot the rest of 2011, and if he keeps producing at this clip it will be very difficult to exclude him from any 2012 plans. This is Duda’s time to shine- I hope he takes the opportunity and runs with it, because he seems like a great guy.
I am a die hard Mets fan, about as passionate as they come. But even I am starting to lose a touch of interest with this 5 game losing streak. I will still watch all the games, but now that the team is out of it for good it just won’t be the same.
Like I said, I am just hoping for inspired play, and a sense of urgency to stay around .500. It’s fine for me to relax my competitive spirit as a fan, but if the players do it even a little bit they will lose 15 out of 20 in the blink of an eye. We all know the team is not at full strength. Hell, they aren’t even at half strength. But they can still put forth 100% effort and win their fair share of games.
To be honest I put the onus on the starting pitching to turn this around. They have not been decimated by injuries- they are simply underperforming. Guys like R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano, and Dillon Gee seem to be half the pitchers they were two months ago, while Mike Pelfrey continues to be consistently mediocre at best. The bats have been overachieving all season- now it’s time for the hurlers to do their share. I’d like to see San Diego score less than 10 runs in this series. If that happens I guarantee the Mets win 2 out of 3 at least, and can come home with some confidence brewing.