Said Manuel about last year’s collapse and the playoffs: “The burden … the cloud … the demons … whatever you want to name it. I think we’re gonna be fine. If someone scraps and claws their way in, those teams seem to fare very well in the playoffs. That’s my hope. That we fight our way in and we fight our way through.”
It has come to this for the Mets. Brandon Knight has been called upon to pull the Mets out of their funk. It has been three straight losses, so you can’t really call it a collapse. But, it has also been four losses in five games, so you tell me.
The bullpen crashed and burned Sunday, Pedro Martinez showed heart alone wasn’t enough Monday, and Monday and Tuesday the offense went into hibernation mode. Each of the past four losses carries a reminder from how they collapsed last September.
The Mets are asking a lot from Knight tonight. This has to be a game where the offense tees off, but there’s been no signs of that lately.
Three weeks from today the Mets will either be cleaning out their lockers at Shea or working out in preparation for the Division Series. I’m still thinking it will be the latter.
But, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t think there wasn’t anything to worry about with this team. It was imperative they win last night and they did, with Johan Santana pitching one of his most important games as a Met. Maybe themost important.
Here’s what I see as the most important issues down the stretch.
1. Coping with last season. Last night was a start, but don’t forget the collapse including stretches of bad ball against teams with losing records. They can’t afford to let up against teams with losing records, such as Washington and Atlanta. I’m not convinced they have the killer instinct. This week should tell a lot.
2. The starting pitching is three deep with Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez. Pedro Martinez can’t be relied on for more than five innings, and lately they haven’t been a good five innings.
3. The bullpen has been suspect all season. Having something definitive on Billy Wagner might help Jerry Manuel define roles, but how can they be better off without their best reliever?
4. Hitting with runners in scoring position has also been an issue. Last night was tougher than it needed to be. With pitching issues, more runs are always needed. David Wright, in particular, has been in a funk.
Johan Santana needs to earn his money tonight. The Mets have dropped two straight to the Phillies, and if they lose tonight they are tied for first and don’t think for a moment thoughts of the collapse won’t resurface, if they haven’t already.
“That’s why you have a Johan,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “We’re not quite clicking like we were. It’s unfortunate come home after a good road trip and not be clicking.
“Hopefully, Johan can keep us in the game.”
I would hope the expectations are higher than that.
Do you remember, their lead last year that disappeared in two weeks?
Of course, you do. Let’s hope the Mets remember, too. Willie Randolph said in spring training that the collapse was behind them, but when he took over Jerry Manuel said if he were manager he would have hammered the collapse home as a motivator.
If nothing else, the Mets should have learned about fragility. And, that’s not just in the late innings when the bullpen has the game. It is advancing runners and hitting with runners in scoring position from the first inning on. They’ve played well lately, but this remains a concern.
What the Mets should have learned from last year is the development of the killer instinct. No matter what happens this weekend, the Mets will not win or lose the NL East. But, winning two of three, at least, gives them the hammer.
Let’s hope this time, they don’t drop it on their foot.
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