by Paul West
Once upon a time, the New York Mets were seen as a team that could only win a low-scoring game. Their starting rotation, emerging as maybe the best in all of baseball, could shut down any lineup on any given night–the problem was their anemic offense. Despite hovering on the fringe of the National League playoff race, the Mets operated with a negative run differential. Fans and analysts clamored for them to make roster moves, to augment their offense enough to support their dominant pitching; at one point, the Mets were 35-5 when scoring four or more runs.
The Mets made the necessary moves at the trade deadline, and they haven’t looked back. With the additions of Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, the Mets’ offense has woken up in a big way. They swept the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, and now sit at the top of the division. The Mets have assumed control of the National League East for now, and are playing with and increased confidence and momemtum. They scored twenty-five runs in three games in Miami, and first baseman Lucas Duda went on an historic rampage last week in which he hit nine home runs in eight games.
What a great time to be headed to an American League park.
After their recent power surge, the Mets are now 41-6 this season when they score four or more runs; when they give their pitching staff a reasonable amount of support, they’re nearly a sure thing. They’ve been getting hits from up and down the lineup, from impressive rookie Michael Conforto to veterans like Uribe. Wilmer Flores, after an up-and-down and nearly heartbreaking week, has contributed key hits. Ruben Tejada continues to produce good at-bats. And starting tomorrow, they spend the weekend visiting the Tampa Rays, where they’ll get to put an extra hitter in the lineup against a team that’s been floundering.
Using the DH will give manager Terry Collins a chance to use Juan Lagares‘ defense in center field while getting Conforto or the returning Michael Cuddyer into the lineup. It can give Duda a day off from the field while he continues to try to stay hot at the plate. Cespedes, who’s just come over from the American League, has plenty of experience hitting in the Rays’ Tropicana Field. And while the extra batter to face will be an adjustment for the Mets’ staff, the Rays aren’t one of the bigger-hitting teams in the AL and the overall advantage should still go to the Mets.
There are no actual sure things in baseball; the Mets will still have to put together good at-bats and continue to execute on various phases. But the Mets must be as excited as they’ve ever been for a switch to the designated hitter.