NEW YORK -- New York Mets manager Terry Collins often has preached that you cannot dwell on what you lack. Instead, the 25 players on the active roster have to find a way to get things done, whether or not the team is shorthanded.
Yet even Collins found himself acknowledging after Wednesday’s 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox that the Mets are hamstrung by the absences of David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud. Add to that Yoenis Cespedes requesting the series finale off despite being 6-for-13 in his career against White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez and it’s certainly understandable why the Mets struggled at the plate during their latest disheartening defeat.
“I don’t think there’s any question that’s a major part of it,” Collins said. “In baseball you’ve got to pick each other up. You’ve got to have somebody step up when somebody else hasn’t. We’ve been doing that a lot, but we didn’t get it done this homestand. And we had a lot of opportunities to win a number of games on this homestand. We couldn’t put a big hit on the board.
“But we’ve talked about it: It’s one thing to give a guy a day off. It’s another when you’ve got four guys out of your lineup. Those are big holes.”
Still, Collins found it difficult to excuse what happened Wednesday. The Mets drew 13 walks. Thirteen. No team had drawn that many walks in a game and lost since the Yankees in 2006. More damning, the Mets became only the second team since 1893 to draw 13 or more walks and fail to exceed one run, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was the Dodgers ... back in 1953 when they played in Brooklyn.
The Mets grounded into five double plays, one shy of matching the franchise record. They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 baserunners. They ended up with seven hits.
“Nobody feels sorry for you,” Collins said. “The team on the other side of the field, they don’t feel sorry for you. The teams in the National League don’t feel sorry for you. You’ve got to fight your way through it. You’ve got to apply the things that are talked about in situational hitting, things that we work on every single day in batting practice. Hit the ball the other way. Runner at third base, less than two outs. Infield back. Infield in. Hitting and running. All of the things you talk about, all those things, they’ve got to start being applied.”
Yet Collins went on to acknowledge that the Mets do not have the type of players who manufacture runs. Of the Mets’ runs scored this season, 56.0 percent have come via the home run. That’s the highest percentage in MLB. The Mets are one of only four teams that derive at least half of their run production from the long ball. The Tampa Bay Rays entered Wednesday ranked second at 52.2 percent, followed by the Baltimore Orioles at 51.9 percent and the Seattle Mariners at 50.0 percent.
“We’re not a small-ball team,” Collins conceded. “We don’t steal bases. We’re not a big hit-and-run team. We’re more of a get-a-good-ball-to-hit-and-drive-it kind of a team. To ask guys to do things they’re not very good at, you’re asking them to fail. You want to put them in situations where their strengths take over and there’s a better chance for success. We said earlier: There’s going to be a span here where we don’t hit homers. And we’re going to have a tough time.”
Plenty of players are in a rut, which exacerbates the problem. No. 3 hitter Michael Conforto and the No. 4 hitter Cespedes both are 1-for-their-past-22. The drop-off from even a compromised Wright to Ty Kelly is titanic. Subtract d’Arnaud’s production, as modest as it was, and Mets catchers are hitting .195 (25-for-128) with two homers and 12 RBIs this season. And James Loney, the latest fill-in for Duda, is 1-for-9 to open his Mets career.
“I think I am pressing a little bit,” Conforto said. “I need to take a deep breath, get back to what was working. That just starts with hard work and being confident. I think maybe I’m not seeing it as well right now. Today I didn’t pick up a couple of sliders, a changeup here and there. Toward the end of the game I was just really expanding [the strike zone].”
On their 2-4 homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers and White Sox, the Mets scored one run in three different games and two runs in another.
“We’re still going to be OK,” Collins insisted. “We’ve just got to grind out something on the offensive side. We’re going to be fine. Our pitching is going to come. And, as we know, as we saw last year, when that pitching gets going, we get rolling.”