It’s a basic question really: Can the Mets turn it around to make the playoffs?
The turning point of last night’s game came in the first inning when the Mets couldn’t capitalize on a scoring opportunity and the Braves parlayed Luis Castillo’s muffed DP chance into a three-run inning.
OK, fine, that was the turning point, but the real indictment of the Mets came in the eight other innings. Johan Santana was professional enough to keep the game close, but the Mets’ offense slumbered through what they called a critical game. It’s not the adversity, but how you respond that is critical, and the Mets responded like a .500 team.
To a man, the Mets said they understood the magnitude of last night and this series. Can you imagine what would have happened had they not?
It arguably the most important game of the season, the Mets mailed it in. Yes, Castillo’s defense was sloppy, but the offense gave away too many at-bats and opportunities. They played with disinterest, without passion, without intensity.
Some might say, without heart.
In a game they had to win, the Mets gave up. This week is about trying to regain control their destiny. Instead, they surrendered meekly.
Technically, the Mets could run the table this week and be back in the race before they return home. There is also enough time left where they could pick up a game a week and be there in the end.
That’s all possible, but the Mets have given us no indication either scenario will happen. They haven’t played well enough on the road to think such a hot streak is in the cards. They also haven’t played consistently enough to give reason to believe the methodical way would work, either.
The Mets, losers of 12 of 17 games since the All-Star break, have shown no inclination of turning things around. They have Johan Santana (8-5, 3.11) hoping to rebound against a seven-run outing in his last start against St. Louis.
That game came on the heels of a stretch in which he went 3-0 with a 0.58 ERA.
Santana has pitched well in eight starts against the Braves since joining the Mets – a sparkling 1.79 ERA – but is a dismal 2-4 because of a lack of run support, getting two or fewer runs in each game.
The Mets’ struggles started prior to the All-Star break as they have lost 15 of 21 games, including two of three to the Braves at Citi Field. They saved the worse for Sunday when they were pummeled, 14-1, by Arizona (they have lost five of six to the Diamondbacks in the last two weeks).
“It definitely hurts your pride a little bit when you perform in that manner,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “We didn’t pitch, we didn’t hit, we didn’t play defense.’’
It is the deal that keeps on taking.
Keeps on taking money from the Mets’ coffers, keeps on taking life out of a team that is fading away, keeps on taking the enthusiasm we once had for this team.
Oliver Perez will be paid $13 million this year to languish in the depths of the bullpen, to see light only on the blackest of days like yesterday. He will be paid $13 million next year to do the same.
Because Perez will not accept a minor league assignment to work out his obvious problems, he has forced the Mets to play with 24, hamstringing them as they fight to stay above .500. It is his right through collective bargaining to do so, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
It is selfishness to the highest degree.
The Mets tried to get somebody to bite at the trade deadline on Perez’s ridiculous contract – ditto that of Luis Castillo, too – but came away with no takers. Undoubtedly, he’s already cleared waivers, but don’t expect a deal of that kind in August.
If there is such a thing as flipping a switch for a team, the Mets will have to do it now. After starting their second half collapse by losing 12 of 17 since the All-Star break, they’ll have to turn it around now.
Out of 162 games, the season will boil down to six games for the Mets. Three in Atlanta starting tonight, then three in Philadelphia over the weekend against the Phillies. For a team that has been horrid all season on the road, they pretty much have to run the table to make any kind of dent.
If they win two of three, they’ll only pick up one game, so what good is that?
Whatever pride this team has left, they’d better find it now if they have any hope of playing meaningful baseball in September.
The confidence level in this team has to be high tonight because of Johan Santana, but overall, considering how they mailed it in yesterday in being mauled by Arizona it’s low. With all that is on the line for the Mets, to come up with such a showing is shameful.
How does a team that says it is a contender only win one of six games against a team like the Diamondbacks? Shameful. It inspires no confidence for this week.