It’s exactly what the Mets needed and, as it turns out, a brilliant bit of scheduling. Before entering the series against the Washington Nationals, the Mets were on a downward spiral having lost four games in a row, sitting at fourth place in the division with a 6-9 record.
After two strong starts and wins by Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, the Mets have closed to within three games of the Florida Marlins and one game of the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. So, the Nationals series couldn’t have come at a better time.
It’s a chance to find the Mets’ groove again, to boost their confidence and morale, and get back to the fundamentals. For the most part, they’re doing that. They’re winning the games they should win. They’re doing just enough to get by, and maybe right now that’s good enough.
However, that’s not going to be good enough when the Marlins come to town on Monday. There are still some glaring problems, namely hitting in bases-loaded situations, David Wright’s league-leading strikeouts and Daniel Murphy’s defense, that need to be fixed. Although, to be fair, Murphy did have an amazing catch and double-up Saturday.
Manuel’s decision to move Wright to the fifth hole was a brilliant one as it turns out as Wright is still struggling with his swing and Carlos Beltran has been on fire, leading the National League in batting average. Maybe Manuel should consider moving Wright down even farther in the lineup, where there is a little less pressure. Fortunately, Wright’s hitting woes haven’t seeped into his defense, as he showed Saturday.
Even with the League’s top two hitters in Beltran and Luis Castillo, the Mets still can’t seem to hit with the bases loaded. It’s to the point where you expect them to go down quietly. It happened Friday night in a game that should’ve been blown wide open, yet basically was won due to some shoddy Nationals defense. The Mets were just 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position that night.
The Mets did show marked improvement in Saturday’s 8-2 win. That’s the kind of score the Mets should put up against the Nationals. They improved their hitting with runners in scoring position to 4-for-11. The bullpen threw a scoreless 3 1/3 innings in relief of Pelfrey, who went more than five innings. The team, for the most part, executed defensively.
Those are the kind of things the Mets need to do to beat the Marlins on Monday. They need to improve on Saturday’s showing, keep the momentum going Sunday with Oliver Perez on the mound and go into Monday on a three-game winning streak.