For the most part, the Mets regulars have remained intact this season. That’s changed in the last week or so, moving the question to who’s up next…
The Mets, as of Sunday, have 39 games remaining on their schedule. Most of those games are played against teams sporting plus .500 records. Two games separate the team from the Chicago Cubs, who hold the second and final Wild Card spot. The Brewers and Phillies sit between the Mets and Cubs in what is still a very tight race.
It’s was a bumpy ride for the Mets this past week. Mostly immune from injuries to key players this season, the team suddenly is met with a loss of time for Jeff McNeil (hamstring – expected to out 1-2 weeks), Robert Gsellman (triceps – expected back later this week), and J.D. Davis (calf – day-to-day).
Joining the list of previously injured Mets, including Brandon Nimmo (neck – expected out until at least Sept.1), Dominic Smith (foot – not due back until Sept.6), and Robinson Cano (hamstring – out for the season), the depth of the Met’s roster is being challenged to its fullest.
Mets: What Happens Now?
On Saturday in a victory over the Royals (thank you Jacob deGrom and Seth Lugo), the Met’s lineup featured Luis Guillorme (.197, .227 OBP), Juan Lagares (.218, 282), Aaron Altherr (.088, .145), and Ruben Tejada (.000, .000) as a pinch-hitter.
Brodie VanWagenen has raided the team’s Triple-A club in Syracuse and apparently, this is as good as it gets. Meanwhile, Mets manager Mickey Callaway must also grapple with giving his kids a much-needed rest as games played rises. Speaking about rising star Amed Rosario, Callaway told the New York Post:
The good news is the Mets have their future squarely in their hands. Beginning Tuesday, the team plays (in order) the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and the Chicago Cubs, all at Citi Field. Then, it’s on the road to face the Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals, before returning home against the Phillies again. Each series is a three-game set before they get a “break” against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 9.
Whew! Nobody said this was going to be easy. To keep this real, none of the replacements cited above are going to answer the bell as Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, and Thairo Estrada have for the Yankees, who have faced 28 different trips to the IL by players this year.
The Spotlight Shifts
Even so, what this means is the Mets are going to need more production from other regulars in their lineup. The light shines brightly on Michael Conforto who while having a good year, now needs to step it up with an exceptional finish.
Todd Frazier needs to take his leadership in the clubhouse to the field. Providing the power, he is capable of producing on a club that is going to continue to struggle to score runs.
As Mickey Callaway alluded to, Amed Rosario needs to stay within himself, ignoring the self-imposed pressure to make up for (especially) the loss of Jeff McNeil. Thrust back into a leadoff role, Rosario already has enough to deal with daily
Finally, in ways similar to Rosario, Pete Alonso will need to fight the fight to stay within himself. Unless Conforto and Frazier get hot behind him, pitchers will pitch Alonso carefully, walking him if need be. Plate discipline remains Alonso’s biggest challenge.
The Mets can continue to rely on their starting pitching to keep them in games. DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz are locked in. Marcus Stroman is bound to find his comfort zone in the National League, and Zack Wheeler is fighting for a big contract as a free-agent to be.
There is no “Next Man Up” for the Mets. Joe Panik fell into their hands, and he is a sleeper in their lineup who can provide some help. But real answers need to come from regulars who have been in the lineup all season. Thirty-nine games – six weeks… one day at a time