By Michael Mandelkern
The Mets have cowered into the depths of the Wild Card standings in the dog days of August. They have lost 12 out of their last 19 games played, seven of which were by a margin of three or less. The offense has put together a measly average of about 1.58 runs per game, and even got shut out three times.
The numbers prove that Mets’ starting pitching, for a significant amount of the losses, has given the lineup a chance to win. On August 20 ace starter R.A. Dickey only allowed one run over seven dominant innings against the Colorado Rockies. But he didn’t step off the mound with a win because his lineup only mustered one run itself. The bullpen predictably let the game get away over the final two innings, but the lineup must blame itself for its inefficiency with runners in scoring position.
The series’ against the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals from August 10 to August 19, with just one day off, were understandably difficult, but what’s most disconcerting is that the Mets haven’t fared any better against below-.500 teams. They lost two out of three games against both the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins in early August, as well as in every other series played after August 3.
Facing the Rockies should be a punching bag opportunity. The Rockies starting pitching ERA has ballooned ever since management imposed a 75-pitch limit, which reflects its National League West-worst record of 48-73 on the season. However, the Mets have only scored three runs over the first two games (both of them losses) of the four-game home stand, two of which came on sacrifice flies. The Rockies have driven in nine runs and already eased the pressure of leaving New York on a down note. One more loss and the Mets drop their sixth series in a row.
The Mets’ 57-66 record is the season’s worst: two of the runs were unearned and derived from humiliatingly sloppy defense, and Ike Davis, David Wright and Daniel Murphy went down one-two-three in the bottom of the ninth inning. Nobody on base, no drama and no hope. They have lost 26 out of 37 games since July 13.
The Mets have barely shown a shed of its old skin since the All-Star break. The same team that defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in thrilling walk-off fashion on July 5 is now tied for third place with the Phillies and only a couple of losses away from the National League East basement. David Wright is no longer in the running for National League MVP. Johan Santana has gone from an ace to a folded poker hand.
Any game can be a breakthrough and snowball to a .500 record. That is what keeps Mets fans watching, but lately just praying, for at least a pinch of excitement.