For the first time in 2017, the New York Mets didn’t post a losing record in a month. The Mets went 14-14 in 28 June games, which is nothing to write home about but a significant improvement after finishing four games below .500 in April and a game under the break even mark in May. The month of June also finished with the Mets on the upswing, recording six wins in their last seven games to keep their slim playoff hopes alive a bit longer. This isn’t saying much, however, since the Mets also finished May with wins in four out of their last six before dropping four of five to start June.
After losing four of five, the Mets rebounded by winning six of eight against the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Cubs. Just as it looked like the Mets were about to break through they ran into a reality buzzsaw, dropping seven of eight against two of the elite teams in the National League, the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. That poor stretch led Mets’ General Manager Sandy Alderson to concede that he is open to listening to trade offers, and the team appeared to hit rock bottom on June 23rd, when Asdrubal Cabrera came off the disabled list in San Francisco. Cabrera demanded a trade after being moved to second base to accommodate Jose Reyes, but he also began to play more effectively at second as the Mets ripped off a series sweep against the Giants. The Mets then took the momentum with them to Miami, where they won two out of three before Jacob deGrom’s dominant turn last night brought the Mets within five games of the .500 mark. That is the exact spot the Mets began June in, and with a good finish to the half the Mets can close in on .500 and dream of a playoff push.
The big key to the Mets’ June success was the long ball. The Mets slugged 50 homers in June, setting a franchise record for most home runs in a month and becoming the first big league team to hit 50 long balls in a month since 2006. The return of Yoenis Cespedes (.323 batting average/3 homers/9 RBI’s in June) definitely helped the cause, but the Mets also saw strong performances from Curtis Granderson (.316/8/15), potential All Star Jay Bruce (.301/8/19), and infielder T.J. Rivera (.305/1/7) among others. deGrom was the Mets’ star on the mound, going 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA in five starts with 33 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched. The returns of Steven Matz (2-1, 2.67 ERA in four starts) and Seth Lugo (3-1, 3.55 ERA in four starts) helped to bolster a struggling rotation while Addison Reed had a dominant month out of the bullpen, pitching to a 1.42 ERA and recording six saves in the process.
If the Mets want to make a surprise playoff run, the schedule is set up nicely for them to do so. After this series with the Phillies wraps up on Sunday, the Mets head to Washington for three games against the Nationals, which is always a difficult task. The Mets do catch a significant break, however, in missing both Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer in the series while their three hottest pitchers (Matz, Lugo, and deGrom) are lined up to start for them. The first half concludes in St. Louis as the Mets take on another wild card contender in the Cardinals, albeit one that is also under .500. The Mets open the second half with a 10 game home stand, but the first three games might be the biggest since they play host to the skidding Colorado Rockies. The Rockies currently hold the second wild card spot but just snapped an eight game losing streak last night, allowing the Mets to make up a ton of ground in the standings. If the Mets can win that series with the Rockies, they can make up even more ground in the race. The home stand concludes with series against the Cardinals and Oakland A’s before the Mets hit the road for the rest of July, beginning a 10 game road trip with stops in San Diego and Seattle.
This stretch of games will carry the Mets to the trade deadline, and how they play during it will determine whether they are buyers or sellers. The schedule is not hard, as the Nationals and Rockies are the only winning teams the Mets face in June, so if the Mets keep playing well they have every opportunity to climb back into the race. If the Mets aren’t above .500 or within five games of a playoff spot by the end of July, however, they probably should sell and begin preparing for the 2018 season. Buying shouldn’t be an option unless the Mets are right on the brink of a playoff spot, and if anything the team would look at bullpen arms. The Mets have at least made things somewhat interesting again, with an assist from the skidding Rockies, but July will be a big month for their hopes.