After Mets series win over Phillies there is more optimism

Rich Mancuso

There is this prevailing positive attitude at Citi Field as the calendar turns to August.  And for the first time in five years it has nothing to do about a second half collapse for the New York Mets and not playing meaningful baseball in September.

There is still a long way to go, and granted the Mets took two of three games from the horrible Philadelphia Phillies that culminated with a 11-2 win Wednesday afternoon. However beating teams like the Phillies is what has to be done if you are within somewhat distance of a playoff spot and want to play for something in September.

More importantly, the Mets are doing things they did not accomplish the first few months of the season, and they continue to see growth with their young pitching, a backend of a bullpen and in the lineup.

That all came to fruition again as the Mets pounded out 15-hits, and have won five of six at home where they could not buy a win last season in the second half. Wednesday they also win their fourth straight series in the home ballpark. 

Thursday there is a welcomed day off, and then the always tough San Francisco Giants visit, four games that begin Friday night. The Giants, in a tough race with the Dodgers in the NL west by no means are the Phillies. So, there is no doubt, the Mets will be tested as they ended the day 6-1/2 games away from a wild card spot.

The momentum, they say, will continue. The Manager, Terry Collins, once again said this is the team he expected to see the first few months of the season that could not buy a win. That has changed, winning 14 of their last 21 games with an off day Thursday before welcoming the Giants.

Start with Zach Wheeler. The 24-year old right-hander allowed two runs over 6.2 innings and won his third straight decision.  Over his last eight starts he is 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA, 13 earned runs that including the two Wednesday.

Wheeler, (6-8) did not have his best command. But, he is learning and growing with each start and that has Collins and the Mets riding this wave of optimism."You saw a guy battle without his best command,” commented Collins.

When Wheeler goes out next time, he like the rest of this young Mets pitching staff will continue to learn. The attitude is good in the clubhouse. There is that feeling of getting closer to where they want to be as the days pass on the schedule.

And the Mets truly believe, this still can be a meaningful season as they continue to grow. Again, quite a contrast from what was coming out of the post game clubhouse just a few months ago. 

“We’re a good team right now, I feel,” Wheeler said. “We’re just a couple of swings or outs away from turning the corner. I feel like we’re a whole different team from the beginning of the season, honestly with the bats, with the pitching all around.”

Collins always had that feel in the clubhouse and it got better as the Mets went 15-10 in July.

 It was just a matter of making some adjustments, something that occurs during the course of a long baseball season. He is a manager, as the players will say, who always instills confidence. The Mets were always in ballgames due to their starting pitching that came into the series finale with the Phillies 8th in the league, in the ERA department.

There were adjustments to the bullpen, the backend getting Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia to develop into a solid and late game combination.

Collins said, “These guys have competed all year. Always you’re being evaluated, regardless of what anybody says, on wins and losses. Again, we aren’t happy with the fact we don’t have more wins. But all we can do is compete. All you can do is go out there and play nine innings as hard as you can play and then tip your hat and get ready for tomorrow.

He added,” And that’s the way we’ve approached it.”

Exactly on the point is Collins, as the Mets are approaching every game as important because they did, as David Wright said, “dug ourselves a whole, so we’ve got to find our way out of it.”

Wright added he has been impressed with the consistency. “We’re not going through such streaks where you’re hot for a week, cold for a week, hot for a week, cold for a week.” And that is how teams win which was not a pattern for the Mets even as a month ago.

The Mets though have to continue to win and beat quality teams. To show this improvement, the Phillies are not a barometer, once a team that always put a dent in the Mets plans. Still on the schedule, a west coast swing in August with two games at Oakland, the best team in baseball, and three at the NL west leading Dodgers

There are also nine games combined on the road, and at home with the Braves and Nationals who are neck-and-neck for the NL East division lead. The Mets feel they are at a juncture in their schedule that is important and there is that overall consensus that they will be competitive.

Because, as they say things are different with Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson, for the most part hitting with consistency and one picking up the other.

Granderson scored two runs Wednesday and Lagares tied his career high with three hits. Tejada reached base four times and had a season high tying three-hits. Murphy went 3-for-5, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning, and Duda hit his fifth home run in the last eight games, his 19th of the season.

Duda has 11 home runs and 29 RBI in his last 39 games.

 "I have confidence in myself that I can hit lefties," Duda said. He is a different hitter, part of the adjustments Collins has been talking about and the Mets have a legitimate home run threat they expected to have all along. Perhaps it was the revolving door at first base that impeded Duda, before the trade of Ike Davis to Pittsburgh that has been the difference.

That was months ago. The Mets are a better offensive threat with Duda now than they were before, and there is no talk about making a trade before that non-waiver deadline Thursday. Murphy wants no part of that talk either.

As for Tejada, that is another story that continues to develop for the good. Collins never lost confidence in his shortstop. He is more patient at the plate and lining the ball more, similar to his play in the 2012 season. When Wilmer Flores was brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas in early May, said Collins, “Ruben said to him, ‘I gotta get the job back’ and he did.”

Tejada said Wednesday about that conversation with Collins:” Yeah, because I like playing every day and being in the lineup every day. “Been a long time I got three hits in a game. It’s good for me and good for the team. “

And for now, the Mets don’t resemble a team of a few months ago and that leads to more optimism in the “Dog Days of August” and as they say, beyond.