I've been away from the site for a few days, trying to get things organized in our new house. There is still plenty to unpack and still much to do to make this house a home, but it feels more like "our" house with each passing day, even if it seems like I should just be sending my paychecks directly to Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond to save my bank the trouble.
Had no cable TV on Tuesday night, but was fortunate to have my choice of several unsecured wireless internet connections belonging to my new neighbors over which I could listen to the game on MLB Radio. What did I get for my efforts? An extra-inning Met loss.
Wednesday brought cable and my own internet, and with them another Met loss.
And last night? You guessed it. Went grocery shopping for the first time in the new house and was rewarded with yet another extra-inning Met loss.
There's no doubt about it: The Mets have hit a skid. The team has lost four games in a row, five of their last six and six of their last eight. During their recent string of futility, they have ceded one-and-a-half games in the standings to the second-place Braves (five games to 3.5) and three games to the third-place Phillies (eight games to five). All told, things could have been a lot worse. Even though the Mets have had trouble beating the Braves this year, the rest of the league seems to be having no such difficulty.
Even though they managed a victory on Friday night, they did so by scoring just three runs in eight-plus innings off of Chad Durbin. Jorge Sosa pitched a gem, allowing just six baserunners in eight shutout innings. Starting pitching hasn't been a problem, though. Mets starters have pitched well enough over the past two weeks (and really all season) for the Mets to have won a dozen in a row at this point, and doing so would likely have put them on the fast track to another divisional runaway.
Obviously, the offense has been the problem. The bullpen was terrible against the Phillies this week, but if the offense had bothered to show up the bullpen wouldn't have had such a slim margin for error. That is not to remove the blame entirely from the relief corps, but that group -- save the occasional Schoeneweis -- has been exemplary this year and is entitled to the occasional blow-up.
The biggest problem with the bats right now is that they are very weak in the outfield. With Moises Alou and Shawn Green on the disabled list the Mets are regularly starting two of the light-hitting quartet of Endy Chavez, Ben Johnson, Carlos Gomez and -- gulp -- David Newhan. I'm as big an Endy fan as there is, but he has zero power and doesn't really know how to control the strike zone. He is a creative slap hitter with remarkable defensive skills, but players of his ilk are bench players for a reason. Plus, with Carlos Beltran struggling as he has since returning froma short respite last week, the Mets' outfield is hitting like those of the early aughts teams that featured Timo Perez, Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton and Darryl Hamilton, amongst others.
There isn't a finger-snap resolution to the team's hitting woes. There is more than enough talent to score a sufficient number of runs to support the starting pitching that has been keeping them afloat these past couple of weeks. Though, I think Willie Randolph could do the team a big favor by returning David Wright to the two-hole, at least for the time being. With Paul Lo Duca firmly entrenched in the six-hole, you no longer have the argument that the Mets need a contact hitter batting second. Randolph has been using out machines like Gomez, Chavez and Johnson, and over the course of a few games he is just throwing outs away like they're going out of style.