NEW YORK -- Twelve pitches into the homestand, the Mets had lost Jonathon Niese to a line drive that struck him in the lower back. Fortunately for the Amazin’s, though, that did not prove a harbinger of what was to transpire the remainder of the first half.
The Mets soared into the All-Star break with a 9-1 win against the Miami Marlins, having won eight of 10 games on the homestand. And captain David Wright was suggesting the Mets could make a run at the co-division-leading Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the remaining 67 games.
The Mets, at 45-50, still trail both clubs by seven games. They’re actually now closer in the wild-card standings, trailing by 6½ games.
A look at the division standings entering the All-Star break:
“I think that Braves series gave us a lot of confidence,” Wright said, referring to the middle series of the homestand, when the Mets took three of four from Atlanta. “And we know that they’re both very talented teams and teams that have a lot of household names. 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 have had similar optimism fizzle out of the All-Star break before. They were 46-40 in 2012 at the All-Star break, then proceeded to lose 11 of 12 to open the season half. The year before, in Terry Collins’ inaugural season, they were 46-45 at the break and ended up losing 23 of the next 37.
“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. 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.”
Wright, believe it or not, is drawing inspiration -- or at least his analogies -- from the Mets’ collapses of 2007 and 2008. Those years, the feisty Marlins knocked out the veteran-laden Mets during the season’s final series.
“When you have a room full of younger guys, sometimes they can get a little cocky in a good way, where they feel like they can’t lose or they can’t get out, or the opposing team can’t hit them. That can be dangerous,” Wright said. “When I was on the veteran teams as a younger player, the teams like the Marlins gave us trouble because they had a bunch of younger players with this certain swagger to them -- like they didn’t care who was on the other side, that they were going to beat you. And those teams gave us problems.
“So, hopefully, we can be that team that not necessarily sneaks up on people but can go compete with those big guys.”