Image: NY Post
Welcome back to the Amazins in Astoria, a season long chronicle of my life in relation to the 2022 New York Mets.
For the first entry in this series, click here.
For the previous entry in this series, click here.
July 11th-13th-Away Series vs. Atlanta Braves (53-33 Pre-Series)
I wake up Monday morning in a cold sweat. Today begins the most important 3 days of the Mets season so far. After hanging on to one of the fasted shrinking division leads in baseball, the series of reckoning is here. Even if things go completely wrong for the Mets in this series, they are still well in the hunt for the East with over 75 games left to go. Still, with just a few games before the All-Star break, losing the division for even just a few days would be a terrible way to punctuate the second half.
To calm my nerves, I go over some of the recent Monday headlines, including the Mets' All-Stars that were announced a day prior. While a starter would be nice, 4 reserves on the roster, Pete in the Derby, and Francisco Alvarez in the Futures game is a pretty strong showing. As for the series right in front of the team, the security that comes with having Max Scherzer start game 1 really can't be topped. That is, of course, until I heard the news that Travis Jankowski will also be making his on-field return from the IL tonight.
While Jankowski is admittedly quiet at the plate tonight, Scherzer is dominant on the mound. He strikes out 9, allowing only a solo homer from Austin Riley before making his last out of the night. After watching Scherzer throughout his career, it's clear that his mind is his strongest weapon. With the Mets' lead cut in half following Riley's homer, Marcell Ozuna doubles to get the tying run in scoring position. As Eddie Rosario steps up to the plate, the Atlanta crowd is almost as loud as I saw them last postseason. No stranger to situations like these, both in the playoffs and your average Monday night game, Scherzer fans Rosario in 4, with strike 3 coming from a low cutter. With the beef of Atlanta's lineup taken down in this inning, Scherzer helps secure not only the win, but also the division lead should the Braves win on Tuesday and Wednesday.
1 homer does not a bad pitcher make, but when you're Seth Lugo, and you've just given up your 5th homer of the season, bringing your homer rate up to about 1 every 6 innings or so, the gears in my brain begin to turn. I'm not saying Lugo's performance in tonight's 4-1 loss is the biggest outlier of the Mets bullpen this season, because trust me, there are a lot. What I'm saying is that when you come in to replace a pitcher like David Peterson, who finishes a pretty solid performance on a rough note (a home run from Matt Olson), you should be there to clean up the mess, not pile onto it. With the All-Star Break a little under a week away, it's still a biiit too early for a trade to be made, so I'll have to brace myself for another rubber match on Wednesday afternoon.
Luckily, rubber matches tend to go well for the Mets this year, and Wednesday was no different. Backed by another strong outing from Chris Bassitt, the Mets cranked out an early 4-0 lead that they would only pile onto. The clutch factor early on this season has melted away slightly at this point, but this offense can still be very potent at the right time. If they decide to focus on offense instead of the bullpen at the deadline, it may just be the overcompensation that they need to make a deep run.
As I celebrate a crucial series win, my mood is immediately dashed when, while walking through the office, I see the Keith Hernandez bobblehead on a coworker's desk, a perpetual testament to my failure mocking me at my own workplace.
July 14th-17th-Away Series vs. Chicago Cubs (55-34 Pre-Series)
I hate when the Mets go to play the Cubs, because it serves as nothing but a reminder that I still have never been to Chicago, let alone Wrigley Field. Whenever I think about some of my favorite baseball quirks, I'm usually picking the various timeless aspects of the Cubs home; the Ivy, the W flag, the bleacher section. It's also the stadium in which the Mets clinched the 2015 NL pennant in 4 games, featuring a finale in which Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and Travis Darnaud all homered en route to the World Series. Considering that this series broke the prophecy laid out in Back to the Future 2, I would like to suggest that this was the moment that sent our reality spiraling into what it is now.
Until our timeline inevitably breaks due to this divergence, I will take some time to enjoy a few more Mets wins against the Cubs this weekend. On Thursday, Patrick Mazeika returns to the lineup, driving in 2 runs on a double as the Amazins' shellac Chicago 8-0. Friday rainstorm ensures plenty of rest for the offense as they prep for a Saturday doubleheader.
The rest is needed, as the Mets and Cubs play a combined 21 innings over the course of the day. In solidarity with my favorite team, I am on a marathon bar crawl for my buddy's birthday in downtown Manhattan, making sure that I have a decent view of a tv wherever we go. In Game 1, Taijuan Walker faced off against Marcus Stroman in a very entertaining duel. While Stroman made his reasons for leaving the Mets VERY clear in the offseason, I really don't know if it's fair to paint him as a huge villain. Just like with Baez, I think these guys were victims of a disorganized team last year, and are probably better off where they are now.
That being said, it was tough to see Stroman working the Mets through 4 innings, fanning 6 batters and allowing just 1 run in an incredibly tight game. Taijuan Walker, whose Fist Half of 2022 is finally starting to look like that of 2021, was just as effective over 6. In his postgame, Walker talked about how he felt his performance was built around giving his team the best chance to win. Even though the winning run came due to a Seiya Suzuki error in extras, I have a hard time disagreeing with him.
Game 2 had Scherzer on the mound, and while it was no DeGrom-Scherzer Spring training game, having him follow up Walker's performance made for a pretty tough 1-2 punch against the Cubs. Like on Monday against the Braves, Scherzer gets backed into a corner, this time early on as he allows 4 hits over 2 innings. However, even when down, Scherzer stayed locked in, allowing just 3 more hits over the next 4 innings and fanning 11. Once again, a Mets starter gives an open path for his team to win, and instead of taking it, they wait for their opponent to flounder, this time with a HBP on Alonso to take a 3-2 lead, and then another throwing error to bring Lindor home from 2nd.
While the Mets drop their last game of the 1st half 3-2, it's quickly gone from my memory as my focus shifts to who the Mets picked up in the draft this weekend, as well as who they didn't. Kevin Parada, their 1st-Round pick, definitely sticks out for a few reason. It's been a long time since we've had a top-tier catcher, and should Francisco Alvarez be used as a bargaining chip at the deadline, it's nice to know that the front office is really focusing on building the position. As for who we didn't take, I know this may sound like an old take, but I just feel like passing on Kumar Rocker, only for him to be drafted again, will end up biting the Mets' butt in the long run.
For the first time in a long time, the All-Star Break (and game) has a strong Mets presence. While Pete has a tough time against one of the best Home Run Derby pools in a long time, he, Jeff McNeil, Edwin Diaz, and Starling Marte all put on a pretty great show on Tuesday night. Considering that the All-Star Game is a reflection of the season up until that point, I guess it only makes sense that Jeff McNeil was hit by a pitch.
As the 2nd half gets underway, trade talks heat up, and DeGrom's health improves, the ceiling for this team is as high as ever.