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New York Mets Tread Water in Trying August

September 1st, 2013 at 12:52 PM
By Mike Phillips

After a strong July, the New York Mets entered August looking to build on their momentum and work on a second half push. The Mets faced some difficult stretches in the month, including an 11 game West Coast swing and a challenging home stand where the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers came into town. While the Mets finished the team with a 14-15 record, the story of the month was not simply the team's won-loss record. The month was defined by injuries to the Mets' two best players, one of which could have long term ramifications for the franchise going forward.

'David Wright' photo (c) 2009, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Mets began the month by dropping the finale of their four game series with the Miami Marlins before returning to New York to begin a six game home stand. The home stand started off well as the Mets walked off with a win against the Kansas City Royals, but that win came at a high cost. Third baseman David Wright injured his hamstring in the game and was lost for a minimum of 3-5 weeks. The Mets felt the loss of their leader as they looked flat the next two days, both of which resulted in victories for the Royals.

The Mets looked for a spark when they called up prospect Wilmer Flores to fill in for Wright before their series with the Colorado Rockies. Flores looked comfortable, and the Mets swept the Rockies before they began an 11 game road trip, their longest of the season. The trip started off well as the Mets took two of three from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they hit a speed bump in Los Angeles. The Mets could not cool off a red hot Los Angeles Dodgers' squad and were swept away in three games. The Mets then split a four game set in San Diego and won a makeup game against the Minnesota Twins to finish their trip at a disappointing 5-6. The trip was also important for the Mets as they saw the promotion of catcher Travis d'Arnaud to the major leagues. The rookie catcher, who was the key component of the R.A. Dickey trade, made his Mets' debut in San Diego after John Buck was placed on the paternity leave list. 

The Mets returned to New York with their prized rookie hitters in tow, but minus another starting pitcher. Jenrry Mejia was lost for the season after having to undergo elbow surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow, leaving the Mets in need of another arm. After splitting a two game set with the Atlanta Braves, the Mets surprised a lot of people by signing former Red Sox' pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to the active roster. Dice-K had spent the season as a member of the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, before receiving his release a few days prior to try and latch on somewhere else. Matsuzaka made his Mets' debut on August 23rd against the Detroit Tigers, getting rocked for six runs in five innings as the Tigers beat the Mets 6-1. 

The next day brought a marquee pitching matchup to Citi Field as Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer faced off in an All Star Game rematch. Harvey was rocked for a season high 13 hits as the Tigers went on to beat the Mets 3-0. Detroit swept the Mets the next day, but fans and players didn't realize the sweep would be the least of the Mets' problems. News broke on Monday afternoon that Matt Harvey had undergone an MRI at Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery, and speculation was rampant that Harvey could be lost for a while. GM Sandy Alderson confirmed in a press conference that afternoon that Harvey had suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and was likely lost for the season. The injury, which could lead to Tommy John surgery, could knock Harvey out for the 2014 season as well.

'Matt Harvey' photo (c) 2012, slgckgc - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The air came out of the balloon for the Mets on Monday night as they looked flat as a pancake following the Harvey news. They got beaten 2-1 by the Philadelphia Phillies, stretching their losing streak to five games. The Mets shook up their roster the next day as they received an offer they could not refuse from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets sent their best hitter this season, Marlon Byrd, and Buck to the Pirates in exchange for minor league infielder Dilson Herrera and reliever Vic Black. The trade cleared the way for the Mets to give another young prospect, outfielder Matt den Dekker, a chance to play in the major leagues.

The Mets responded to adversity by defeating the Phillies 5-0 behind a Jon Niese shutout, and bounced back from a loss on the 28th with a victory to end their homestand at 3-6. The Mets carried that momentum with them to Washington, where the Mets took the first two games of their three game series with a red hot Nationals' team. The Mets finished August with a mark of 14-15 and will start their final month of the season with a Sunday Night matchup against the Nats as they look to break out the brooms.

The Mets saw their roster change significantly over the course of the month. The Mets lost three starting pitchers (Harvey, Mejia, and Jeremy Hefner) with season ending injuries, their captain (David Wright) to a hamstring trade, and traded away two of their most consistent offensive performers (John Buck and Marlon Byrd). In spite of all these losses, the Mets continue to play hard have a chance to improve on their record from last season. The Mets have received strong performances from the remaining starting pitchers, including Jon Niese (3-0, 1.93 ERA), Dillon Gee (3-1, 2.14 ERA), and Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.13 ERA). While the hitters have not been as good as they were in July, the Mets have received enough timely hits to remain competitive. The offense should receive a boost when their captain, Wright, returns later in September.

September should also be an interesting month for the Mets. The Mets enter their final month with a record of 62-72, meaning they would need to go 20-8 the rest of the day to finish above .500. That would not be an easy task for the Mets considering they have a lot of games against teams in playoff contention. This road trip, in particular, features games against the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians, both of whom have designs on October baseball. This is a positive for the Mets, who will give their young players opportunities to play in meaningful September games. The Mets can have an impact on the playoff race when they play those teams, along with a trip to Cincinnati to play the wild card contending Reds in late September. The Mets also have an opportunity to finish the season in second place in the National League East as they are only 5.5 games behind second place Washington entering tonight's contest. Either way, the Mets will have plenty to look forward to in September. 

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Tags: August, Baseball, David Wright, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia, John Buck, Jon Niese, Marlon Byrd, Matt Harvey, MLB, New York, New York Mets, Travis D'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Zack Wheeler

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