Just as they did last season, the Mets won 15 games in April, and again the spark was a long winning streak. Last year it was 11 games; this year it was eight.
As much as the Mets like to boast about their young pitching – as well they should – the springboard this time was power. It was not, as has been suggested, Terry Collins’ knee jerk managing in the eighth game of the season.
Yes, they won that game and have gone on to win five straight series. That’s purely coincidental.
A key that can’t be underestimated has been the Mets’ ability to get an early lead, as they scored first in 10 of their last 14 games in April. Overall, they are 13-3 when they scored first this year.
The Mets crushed three homers and took a 4-0 lead in the first inning Monday against the Braves.
Contrary to the popular opinion of Yoenis Cespedes, I’m going with Neil Walker, who was hitting before Michael Conforto was moved to third in the order. Walker is tied for third in the majors with nine homers and finished the month with a career-high 19 for April.
Conforto would be my second choice and Cespedes third.
PITCHER OF THE MONTH
Noah Syndergaard took a pounding Sunday, but has been overpowering with 38 strikeouts with a 1.69 ERA for the month.
KEY GAME OF THE MONTH
Matt Harvey lost his first three starts, but finally won, April 22, 6-3, at Atlanta. He wasn’t totally on his game, but he pitched out of trouble enough times to turn it around. Sure, the game when Cespedes hit a three-run pinch-hit homer was more dramatic, but in the big picture getting Harvey going was more important.
KEY MOVE OF THE MONTH
On April 15 in Cleveland, Collins moved Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the batting order and the Mets have sizzled since going 12-3. When hitting third or fourth, Conforto is batting .373 with nine doubles, four homers and 15 RBI.
RED FLAGS ENDURED
Jacob deGrom missed two starts because of a strained right lat; Harvey lost his first three starts; closer Jeurys Familia sustained a rocky stretch, but has converted all eight of this save opportunities.
KEY ISSUE RESOLVED
Shortstop and the bullpen were two significant issues facing the Mets entering the season, but Asdrubal Cabrera has been superb both in the field and at the plate. The bullpen converted nine of 11 save opportunities and stranded 26 of 35 runners.
Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. … Cespedes missed close to a week with a bruised right leg. … David Wright ended the month without a problem, but his back remains an issue.
SIX QUESTIONS RAISED
Will the power continue?
Power of not, can Conforto keep it up?
Can Wright stay healthy?
Will the new guys, Walker and Cabrera, keep hitting?
Will we see deGrom and Harvey go on a roll?
Can the bullpen keep it up?
BY THE NUMBERS
.333: Walker’s average with RISP.
4: Times the Mets hit back-to-back homers.
5: Consecutive series the Mets won to close the month.
9: Consecutive games in which Cespedes had at least one extra-base hit.
22: Strikeouts by Cespedes.
29: Strikeouts by Wright.
33: Homers hit by the month.
LOOKING AT MAY’S SCHEDULE
They began May losing to Madison Bumgarner Sunday and close their current homestand against Atlanta.
The Mets are on a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, including their first West Coast trip, with four games in San Diego and Los Angeles and three in Colorado.
They’ll return home for a pair of three-games series against Washington (May 17-19) and Milwaukee (May 20-22), then go to Washington (May 23-25) for three more against the Nationals.
They’ll close out the month with three at home against the Dodgers (May 27-29) and two against the Chicago White Sox (a three-game series that ends June 1).