by Paul West
Don’t look now, but the Mets are still the Michael Myers of the National League.
Less than two weeks ago, people were wondering aloud whether the Mets’ season would begin circling the drain and whether their window of contention was slamming shut. Article after article, blog after blog, were being written on the staggering decline of a starting rotation that had been discussed within the past year as having all-time great potential. As usual, the Mets seemed to mismanage potentially minor injuries to the point where DL stints ensued; and adding insult to injury, their crosstown rivals were sporting one of baseball’s best records as their superstar rookie had people talking about a Triple Crown.
Then Robert Gsellman cranked out a strong start, punctuated by Yoenis Cespedes‘ door-slamming grand slam in his return from yet another leg injury. Then Steven Matz, also back from injury, spun a strong start later that afternoon, and the Mets swept a doubleheader in Atlanta. Then Seth Lugo, back from an elbow injury sustained in the World Baseball Classic (an incident which supports my desire for the WBC to be scheduled much differently than it is), followed up with another strong start; and Jacob deGrom reminded us why he’s still the team’s ace, kicking off the current homestand with a complete-game gem against the defending champion Cubs. Just last night, also against the Cubs, the Mets survived another dead-arm outing by former ace Matt Harvey and won in thrilling fashion; meanwhile, the Washington Nationals’ bullpen has begun to give up leads and their clubhouse is once again showing fissures. And just like that–just like a couple of years ago, actually–the Mets are hosting the Nats again, with a chance to singlehandedly put themselves right back in striking distance.
True, they’re still under .500; but they’re also starting to hit and pitch well in the same game, and roleplayers like Gsellman, TJ Rivera, and Wilmer Flores (sound familiar?)–one of baseball’s hottest hitters, by the way–are stepping up in big moments. But the Mets aren’t even fully assembled yet; and if they continue to play with conviction, their talent–and, it bears noting, the past two years of playoff experience–will quite possibly float them back onto the leaderboard. At which they’ll once again be on the short list of teams that few other teams want to meet in a postseason series.
The Mets, slowly but surely, are gathering themselves to be dangerous again. Citi Field is beginning to rock and roll again. And the team that’s come back from the dead two years in a row might, once again, not quite be the team to count out yet.