One Game, and Tweet, at a Time, the Mets Are Sliding
PHILADELPHIA – We still don’t know the meaning of the letters. When Steven Cohen visits his Stumbling Mets in the roadside clubhouse on a Sunday morning – and tweets about it – is it an act of support, or a sign of panic? When he tweets friday that the Mets are going to start hitting, but instead looking weak all weekend, will there be repercussions?
In his first season as owner of the Mets, Cohen got precisely what he paid for with his $ 2.475 billion: a team that can turn your emotions from hopeful to confused, often at a breakneck pace. After a smooth weekend against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets tumbled to third in the National League East.
Philadelphia completed a three-game sweep on Sunday with a 3-0 victory led by former Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who completed a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and a single walk. The Mets started August with a four-game lead in the division, but are now two-and-a-half games behind the Phillies in first place and a half-game behind Atlanta.
“It’s a special group,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We’re not going to stop saying that, ever, so much struggle as we face. I think we’re doing really well; we throw, we play defense. The only thing we’re missing right now is our attack.
Rojas strives to stay positive, a noble ambition. But he looked like a real estate agent trying to sell a house with hardwood floors and solid walls but no roof. Every winning team needs an attack, just like every viable house needs a roof. Now is not the time to condemn the Mets, but it is difficult to buy what they are selling.
Cohen can get nervous. Tuesday, he tweeted, “We have to get our act together soon,” in a loss to the Miami Marlins, last place. Coincidence or not, Rojas has called a team meeting before the next game. The Mets won that night but have lost all four games since, scoring two, two, three and zero points, a typical streak for this team.
Only one National League team averages fewer points than the Mets: the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are 30 games under .500 at 41-71. The Mets are still a game over, at 56-55, mainly because their pitcher keeps them competitive.
But their ace, Jacob deGrom, won’t pitch this month because of an inflammation in his right forearm; their $ 341 million shortstop Francisco Lindor isn’t about to come back from a right oblique stump; and their new shortstop, Javier Baez, left Sunday’s game with left hip tightness.
The Mets’ main source of energy, first baseman Pete Alonso, is healthy but is falling apart: 2 for 28 with a solo homerun in August. He insisted he was not frustrated.
“Yeah, I haven’t received a hit in a week, but I’ve been on base a ton, I’ve hit countless hard balls straight at defenders,” said Alonso, who was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and a long steal on Sunday.
“It’s one of those things where I don’t feel lost. I feel extremely confident. I have a great plan and I am executing my plan. Sometimes in baseball and in life you can execute a plan and it still doesn’t work out. “
Alonso, who has walked eight walks in eight games this month, said Cohen had an encouraging message on Sunday morning.
“He said, ‘Forward and up,’ that’s about the only thing he said,” Alonso said. “He was extremely positive and he said he was extremely proud of the way we played, the heart that we show every day, and not just the way we behave individually, but the way we perform. manage as a team. The process and what we are doing here is really special.
While Alonso has touted this process – and remember the Mets already replaced their batting coaches in May – Rojas has repeatedly said the team struggled with the basic task of hitting a fastball.
“Again, we’re going into the fastballs and we’re behind the fastballs,” Rojas said. “We keep saying it; I’ve been saying this for almost a week now. We just have to be ready to hit the fastball and go from there.
On Sunday, the Mets got a brace from Brandon Nimmo, then made 22 straight strikeouts before a walk in the eighth. Nimmo scored with a ninth strikeout, but otherwise Wheeler was flawless and a painful reminder of a pre-Cohen Mets miscalculation.
Wheeler spent seven seasons with the Mets, two of which were recovering from Tommy John surgery. He came back strong and hit free agency after the 2019 season, when the Phillies made a five-year, $ 118 million bet that his best years were still ahead of him.
This investment could tip the division in favor of the Phillies. With deGrom sidelined, Wheeler could now be the lead contender for the NL Cy Young Award. He’s 10-6 with a 2.42 ERA and leads the majors in strikeouts (181) and innings pitched (156).
Prior to Wheeler, the last Phillies pitcher to retire at least 22 hitters in a row was Hall of Fame Roy Halladay in his 2010 perfect game. It was fitting, as the Phillies retired Halladay’s No. 34 in a row. of a pre-game ceremony on Sunday.
Wheeler said he tried to throw like Halladay, and with power, precision and efficiency, he did. He is now the first Phillies pitcher to pitch at least three full games in a season since Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in 2011.
“I wanted to finish this game,” said Wheeler. “With the fans as crazy as they were and as loud as they were, it gave me that little extra I needed to get through this.”
The Mets will play in front of their own fans on Tuesday for the first time since August 1, as they comfortably led the East. It seems like a long time ago now, and on Friday, after three games with the Washington Nationals, the Mets start a 10-game streak against the towering Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
With all evidence to the contrary, Alonso insisted, fans should have no reason to worry.
“Mets fans: believe in us – and don’t just believe, know,” Alonso said, later adding, “Smile and know we got it.
The Mets’ most important fan, the one who owns the team, is probably not smiling. If the free fall continues, we have to ask ourselves when and how he will react.
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