Left for dead by most fans a little under a week ago, the Mets have scraped together a modest four game winning streak, stretching their lead over the next-place Phillies to 3.5 games and the third-place Braves to 4.5 games. The Mets could very well start a brand new suffocating losing streak tomorrow night, but the fact that they seem to be on the upswing now and are still in pretty good position in the standings is some kind of miracle.
Honestly, the Mets sucked so badly for such a long period of time that doubt crept into the mind of even the most hopeless optimist. Despite their fast start and the promise of greatness, the Mets seemed to have been wilting right before our eyes. And now, a couple of last at-bat victories and they're back in the driver's seat.
Nobody's perfect, though, and the Mets' bats certainly proved it against Mike Maroth last night. This is a guy who came into the game having walked more batters than he had struck out this year and the Mets managed just two hits over 7.1 innings. They would have lost the game, too, if not for Carlos Gomez and his sweet stroke which combined for a solo homerun in the third inning. Between his longball and Shawn Green's game winner leading off the eleventh the Mets scattered zero hits and just one walk, never mounting anything that could even remotely be considered a rally against Maroth.
Jorge Sosa had a nice little bounce back game, holding the wretched Cardinals to just one run over six innings, and the Mets' bullpen tightened their collective belts, allowing just two hits and a couple of walks over the game's final five frames. Billy Wagner was lights out as usual, striking out three over his two scoreless innings, and Aaron Heilman picked up the victory in relief -- his sixth -- striking out two and allowing just a hit in his inning of work.
Wagner and Heilman have been similar in a couple of respects this season. First, both have been particularly stingy with the free pass. Always a great attribute of a relief arm, allowing runners to reach base without having to rely on the balls-in-play gods is a definite no-no, and Wags and Heilman have both been exemplary in this regard. Secondly, both pitchers have struggled a bit with the longball; Heilman in particular has been hurt by the homerun, as twelve of the eighteen runs he has allowed this season have been scored on balls that left the yard. Conversely, Wagner has allowed just five runs on his four homeruns against.
In other news, Paul Lo Duca was suspended by the league for tow games following his ejection-turned-terror tantrum on Sunday. He is going to appeal the suspension to try for a reduction to just a single game, but considering the way he berated the umpires and threw equipment onto the field I think two games is pretty reasonable. The Mets have a double-header in Philadelphia on Friday so Lo Duca would be wise to get his quiet time out of the way before then. I like Lo Duca as much as the next guy, but production-wise the Mets don't lose a whole lost with Ramon Castro playing in Lo Duca's stead. They are vastly different players but their strengths and weaknesses mostly offset each other.
In still other news, it's not really surprising that the Cardinals are slumping as they are. Aside from Albert Pujols, Chris Duncan and, arguably, Scott Spiezio, this lineup is not terribly imposing.
And in the last other news, following a putrid May with the stick, Carlos Gomez has had himself a perfectly respectable June. The kid is hitting .333/.350/.481 this month after hitting just .172/.219/.241 in May. He also has six stolen bases in seven attempts since the calendar flipped, and add to that his terrific defense in the outfield and you have a pretty useful player. Whether or not he can keep up this pace is another story entirely, but for now at least he seems to have graduated from "out machine" to "not totally useless at the plate". Bravo.