Mets hope second half finishes like the first; Collins said “September can be fun”

Rich Mancuso

And now the all-star break for baseball and the New York Mets. Though, when the Mets left Citi Field Sunday afternoon for their four-day hiatus and ended the first half with momentum with a three-game sweep over the Marlins, there was that consensus in their clubhouse:

Let’s get some rest and continue to win.

 The task after an 8-2 homestand, that ended the first half, begins next Friday night in San Diego. Then there are three more at Seattle and four at Milwaukee, the second best team in the National League.

Regardless of what happens after the break, right now the Mets truly believe they will be a part of playing significant baseball in September. That’s quite a contrast from a little more than a week ago. Then, the Mets were trailing the first place Braves in the division by 11-games and out of contention.

There was no rush to leave the ballpark. Players dressed, packed their bags and departed for their destinations. Some were staying in town. David Wright was headed to southern California and received a shot of, cortisone to the left shoulder prior to the Mets 9-1 series finale sweep.

Collins, dressed in a blue shirt and out of uniform had a quick game post game press conference with the media. He and Daniel Murphy were heading to Minnesota for the All-Star game at Target Field Tuesday night.

“We’re not happy,” Collins said. “We’re not happy with the record, not by any sense of the imagination. But I told the guys today, ‘We’ve got what, 36 games or 35 games left in our division? That’s a lot of games. That’s a lot of games to play. Now what we have to do is go out and play like we did this homestand.”

He added, “And you’re not going to do it every night. I understand that. But, for the most part, play consistent, play smart, play fundamental baseball and we’ll get back in the hunt.”

The manager believes his team will get back in the hunt. And it is possible. With 67 games left, at 45-50, the Mets enter the break five games under .500, seven games behind Atlanta and Washington, and in third place for the first time since May 4.

In other words, the Mets are relevant again. And that was not possible prior to the homestand, coming off a 1-6 road trip that had the Mets in a last place battle with the Phillies. Say what you want about the division and the National League being mediocre. That does not matter because the Mets are playing good baseball and very interesting going into the break.

“We go 7-3 that was going to be a good homestand for us,” Collins said. He told that to his coaches. He said to his players, “Go into the break and get it done today.” The mood in the clubhouse is different from a few weeks ago. His team is smiling, the music is playing, and yes, they are tired.

So, the break is coming at a good time, but momentum is so important in baseball. In two of three years previously, Collins’ teams have left for the break with that momentum and winning formula.  They returned and the winning did not.

“If we continue to play like this, September is going to be a fun month,” Collins stated. And if the Mets accomplish what they did the past ten games, September should see a good month of baseball at Citi Field.  They got production from the bottom of their lineup, starting pitching tossed at least 6.0 innings in their final nine games and averaged 6.2 innings per start.

A team gets that type of pitching and there will be many games in the win column. More so, here is a look, at how the Mets as a team produced at the plate over this ten game span:

40 extra base hits, including 28 doubles, one triple and 11 home runs, and the lineup has struck out six times or fewer in each of their last eight games dating back to July 6th.

Said Curtis Granderson who has been a major part of the resurgence: That’s’ what we’re hoping for,” about September being fun. “That was the goal and mindset going into spring training. Obviously the lineup has changed here and there. “It’s baseball being baseball.”

“There has been nothing to pinpoint.  The pitching has been pretty good. There is still room to improve, so we are going to do more of that in the second half.”

The pitching has been than good, and if the Mets were hitting and producing runs the first three months of the season, as they are doing now at this rate, they would be in position and in a first place battle with the Braves and Nationals.  Jacob deGrom continued to improve Sunday. The rookie is 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA over his last five starts.

Zach Wheeler, the other youngster, on the homestand picked up two wins as he continues to improve with each start.

“We our approach and get solid second half pitching, we can be a dangerous team,” Wright said. He did not answer questions about the shoulder being an issue. It is all about baseball and continuing to win after the break.

“We have proven that we can beat teams with the long ball,” he said. “We got guys up and down our lineup that can hit home runs or be a good situational hitting team but also know when they get in position to score a guy form third, that they can do that as well. For us to be successful we can’t necessarily sit back and rely on the home run.”

The Mets gave away some games in the first half, for any number of reasons.  That has all changed for the better.  And for the past week, all that was heard was, “Keep playing the way we have and doing the little things right. Two more hits for Juan Lagares on Sunday, and he said, “We want to keep playing hard and see what happens.”

Yes it’s a long season and a game of streaks. Winning is contagious and don’t look ahead but the Mets closed the unofficial end of the first half as the hottest team in the National League. There are no doubters in the Mets clubhouse. Now they will get their rest and will have to prove that this was not one of those streaks.

The Braves, and possibly the Nationals are still the teams to beat. The Mets took three of four from the Braves this week.  But, Wright knows what has to be done:

“We might not be there yet, but we’re playing very, very good baseball. And we plan on giving them a run for their money.” The Mets gave their fans that optimism and resumes again next Friday night in San Diego.

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