New York Mets Enter All-Star Break On A High Note

By Todd Singer
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Although most of the first half of the 2014 season has been characterized by blown leads and subpar play, the New York Mets have now won eight of 10 heading into the All-Star break and will look to further capitalize on their recent hot play when the season resumes on Friday.

The 8-2 homestand came against the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins, the latter two being teams that the Mets are chasing in the NL East. While the team is still five games under .500 at 45-50, this streak has injected life into a bunch that appeared to be on the cusp of packing it in just a few weeks ago.

Perhaps more encouraging for New York is that there are no shortage of players who have had a hand in this resurgence. If you’re trying to figure out why the Mets’ offense has suddenly come to life, perhaps it’s Travis d’Arnaud, who has a hit in all but two of the 16 games he’s played since returning from triple-A Las Vegas at the end of June.

Or maybe it’s the captain, David Wright, who’s been one of the best offensive players in baseball over the last few weeks, and has a 1.114 OPS in nine July games since returning from a shoulder injury. It could also be Ruben Tejada, who now has the highest OBP of any shortstop in the majors not named Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez, or Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is sporting a shiny .989 OPS in 53 plate appearances.

Daniel Murphy is tied for third in the NL in hits and Lucas Duda is finally rewarding the Mets’ patience by posting an .832 OPS with 14 homers and 49 RBIs at the break.

Manager Terry Collins has been getting production up and down the lineup, something that was conspicuously absent for the first three months of the season. Even the Mets’ bench players such as Nieuwenhuis, Bobby Abreu and Eric Campbell have contributed when called upon, something the Mets have sorely lacked in recent years.

Of course, not to be overshadowed has been the equally impressive pitching staff that has pulled its weight as well during this hot streak. Young fireballer Zach Wheeler has put together his most consistent stretch of his young career, allowing one run or less in four of his last five starts.

Jacob deGrom, called up in the middle of May, has been an absolute revelation, completely outperforming expectations of scouts who had him pegged as a back-of-the-rotation starter. DeGrom has a 3.18 ERA and a 3.25 FIP to go along with 70 strikeouts in 72 innings since his recall. The Mets have also been buoyed by the return of Dillon Gee, who gave up one run in seven innings against Atlanta in his first start in nearly two months.

The stabilization of the team’s bullpen has also played a huge role, as the early-season debacles seem to be well behind the club. Jenrry Mejia can still make things a little interesting at times as the team’s closer, but that’s to be expected for someone who’s experiencing his first taste of closing at the major league level. Jeurys Familia has been sensational for New York, posting a 2.06 ERA in 45 appearances, and has become Collins’ go-to arm out of the pen.

Meanwhile, Vic Black has a miniscule 1.69 ERA in 23 appearances since his recall from Vegas. Josh Edgin, another player who started the year in triple-A before being promoted back to the bigs, has admirably replaced the ineffective Scott Rice as the Mets’ primary left-handed arm, and is sporting a 1.76 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP since his return.

The Mets most reliable pen arm the last few seasons, Carlos Torres, continues to pitch to a sub-3.00 ERA even as he’s been one of the most heavily used pitchers in baseball.

It’s important for the team to not get too far ahead of themselves, as this is the time of year when New York has hit a speed bump in recent seasons. With a lot of young players, many of whom have never experienced the rigors of a full major league season, the dog days of July and August could be rough; but for now, the Metropolitans have breathed some life into what was looking like an otherwise moribund season.

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