By Michael Mandelkern
The New York Mets entered the All-Star break on July 8 with a 46-40 record, about 7.5 games above expectations (and that’s being generous) and within a game of the Wild Card. History cautions fans against conjuring up postseason hope this early, but with a 8/12 record against the wounded Philadelphia Phillies and 18/30 record overall against the National League East, desperation turns into a legitimate aspiration.
The Mets are consistently inconsistent: the team’s longest winning streak is five games and the longest losing streak is four. The Amazins hold a 18/30 record against the rest of the NL East but an underwhelming 28/56 record against the rest of Major League Baseball. Being able to flip a coin to decide the team’s fate won’t get them into the playoffs. Thirty-nine of the last 76 games of the season are against division rivals, so the Mets need to remain competitive in the east and become more of a threat to everyone else in the Wild Card race.
The Mets fluctuated like the stock market from June 8 to June 22, with a 6-6 record over that stretch in a quadruple sweep. It began with a pummeling sweep at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, an explosion of that anger on the Tampa Bay Rays only to face the broom themselves against the Cincinnati Reds followed by a redeeming three consecutive victories (including two shutouts) over the Baltimore Orioles.
Although the Mets are 23/42 against sub-.500 teams as of the All-Star break (which include the Phillies, Marlins and Brewers), they sometimes struggle against teams that are the laughing stock of the MLB. New York won a humiliating 2/6 games against the Chicago Cubs and got swept by the Houston Astros. The Cubs and Astros are struggling to reach .400 and are shivering at the bottom of the NL Central cellar.
Those are must-win games; the Mets cannot afford to squander those opportunities. They took advantage of a hobbled Los Angeles Dodgers, taking three of four games in the series, and surprised many by doing the same to the world champion St. Louis Cardinals to start off June (including Johan Santana’s no-hitter), yet have also appeared more futile than the far-below .500 teams they have lost against.
Who would have thought last season the Mets would be able to outscore the Phillies 22-12 on their home turf over three games and go undefeated in the away series? It is no surprise that the Atlanta Braves are ahead of the Amazins, but it is by a razor-thin margin of 0.5 games.
Second place is within striking distance. Don’t count out the Mets.