Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Place To Be

Very quickly, the Mets have managed to regroup and make some moves to fix the issues that the team was having. It cost the Mets little in terms of impact talent; the players that were given up are still a year or two away from Major League contributions. In their place now, the Mets can boast Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard and their big catch on Friday afternoon, Yoenis Cespedes. Yes, these players are essentially rentals for the remainder of the season, but if nothing else, this was a show of support by the front office and a message to the fans that this team is indeed going to go for it as opposed to sitting around twiddling their thumbs while opportunity slips away.

I'd not been around for the Padres series, obviously, and given the way Wednesday and Thursday went, it certainly seemed like the ship was sinking. But then again, how many times have we felt that way about the Mets this season. When it seems particularly awful, as it did going into Friday, the Mets somehow pull it together. Here the Mets were, coming off a 2-4 road trip and coming home and going 3-4 and sitting at 5-8 post All Star Break, with the Washington Nationals, the Mets chief competition coming to town. The Nationals, who routinely have come into Citi Field and just beaten the Mets senseless, had won something like 44 of the last 47 games they'd played at Citi Field, and each loss seemed worse than the one before it. But that was also during the Wilderness years for the Mets. It seemed daunting, but the task was rather simple: Just step it up and beat these turkeys and show them they mean business.

So far, that's what the Mets have done. Matt Harvey pitched his ass off for 8 innings on Friday, only to depart a tie game, but Wilmer Flores, who's now everyone's favorite player, hit the winning Home Run in the 12th.

Last night, it was Jacob deGrom's turn to take the mound. deGrom, despite not having his best stuff and despite getting pinged to death by the Nationals all night somehow managed to grit his way through 6 innings and allow only two runs when at multiple points he appeared ready to melt down. But deGrom didn't give an inch when he needed to most, and by keeping the score 2-0, he gave his teammates time to come back. And by teammates, I mean Lucas Duda, who's gone back to being Lucas Duda and mashing Home Runs all over the place. Duda's hit 8 Home Runs in the past 8 (?) days, probably because he now has real Major League hitters hitting behind him, and now with Cespedes in the fold, that's even more protection. The results were pretty obvious; not only did Duda hit two solo Home Runs to tie the game, but in the 8th, the Nationals walked Cespedes in front of Duda with Joe Schmegeggie on the mound and Duda responded by blasting an RBI double over the head of Jayson Werth to plate the game's winning run.

These two wins, in the grand scheme of things, have done little for the Mets in the standings, other than to draw them within one game of the Nationals for 1st place in the NL East. They're still only 7-8 since the All Star Break, and now 5-4 for this homestand, but the attitude on and around the team seems completely different. I guess everyone seems to be pointing to Wilmer Flores and his display of emotion on Wednesday night. Here was a guy who probably had every good reason to be pissed off at the team and yet the thought of being traded away absolutely broke his heart. Zack Wheeler showed a similar display of emotion on Friday, far from the public eye, when he went so far as to call Sandy Alderson and ask not to be traded. As strange as it seems now, given how miserable the past several years have been, players really want to be a part of this team, and when the fans sense just how much the players want to be here and be a part of what could happen, well, it endears them to the fans. Wilmer Flores now gets a standing ovation and fans are roaring his name every time he comes to the plate. The passion of the players isn't always quite so in your face as it has been these past few days, and now it's spilling over onto the field. Citi Field was sold out last night and it appears it will be sold out again tonight, on a Sunday night no less. It's starting to get very interesting.

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