The New York Mets are sputtering into the All-Star break. They are a season-low 10 games below .500 and are nine full games back of the division-leading Atlanta Braves. The first two games of the series with Atlanta have shown that the Mets have no margin for error.
They haven’t been blown out by the Braves — they lost by two runs in Game 1 and one run in Game 2. And in the first game, they blew a 3-1 lead by committing three errors in the eighth inning. This season, New York is 10-20 in one-run games. By contrast, Atlanta is 17-10. Why are the Mets so poor in one-run games?
Part of it is luck; a favorable bounce here, a line drive right at a fielder there and the Mets’ record in one-run games could look a lot better. Another contributing factor is their lack of timely hitting. They’ve hit better overall in the last two weeks, but they continue to strand runners. They’re hitting .228 with runners in scoring position (RISP) this year. Finally, as evidenced by the first game of the series in Atlanta, they make too many mistakes.
The Mets need to base their team around pitching and defense. The pitching has been pretty good. They’re in the top ten in the National League in several categories, but the defense hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. They’ve been without their defensive star in center fielder Juan Lagares for large swaths of the season thanks to injury. And when he’s been in the lineup, he’s even shown some signs of being human. Their so-called defensive specialist at shortstop, Ruben Tejada, is average at best. Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda make up a slightly below-average right side of the infield, and now they are without David Wright at third, at least for the rest of the week.
The Mets need to tighten up their defense if they want to start winning on a consistent basis, particularly in one-run games. They simply may not be built to be a good defensive team right now.