BUFFALO — The problem, boiled down to its essence, is this: the Mets are desperate for a hot streak, keep believing they have one in them, yet they have now played 47 out of their 60 games in this virus-truncated season and have yet to win more than three games in a row. Given the talent on the team, that seems almost impossible.
Given what we’ve seen every day, it is anything but.
Sometimes, we let the 2020 Mets fool us. There was a moment, a few weeks ago, when they put together the second of those three-game winning streaks thanks to a doubleheader sweep on a Friday night at Yankee Stadium, both games won in stirring comeback fashion. They were just a game south of .500, ready to hop on the momentum train, steam into the playoff hunt.
Then promptly lost five in a row.
The first three-game winning streak had come in Miami, when the offense first showed signs of life. This was still a time in the season when it was assumed that the Marlins would inevitably fold like a Boy Scout’s tent, they just needed one of the varsity teams in the division to put them in their place and the Mets were in position to do that.
Then two members of the organization came down with COVID. The last game in Miami was postponed. It was rescheduled for a doubleheader at Citi Field; the Mets didn’t score a run in 14 innings that day.
“We keep showing signs that we’re ready to make a run,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said Friday afternoon.
That night, the Mets scored 18 runs, on top of the seven they’d scored in their previous game, coming back from five runs down. You could almost see the confidence and the swagger on the team grow by the inning. Surely now they were ready to seize the season, to put together a hot streak before it was too late.
Then they lost an excruciating game Saturday night.
And on Sunday, while this 7-3 loss to the Jays can hardly be termed tormenting, and while it is still impossible to officially declare them dead and buried, it has become clear that whatever allows teams to find themselves and play consistently good baseball, the Mets do not possess that gene. Whatever allows such teams to translate such play into the kinds of streaks — five in a row, nine out of 10 — that can be transformative, the Mets are lacking.
It is disheartening to see in so many ways because there ought to be enough on this team to qualify among the top eight in the National League. The Mets have three players who are likely to get MVP votes — Dom Smith, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom. DeGrom has post position to a third straight Cy Young. The rest of the rotation is a mess, but still: it looks like 31 wins will likely be enough to qualify. That’s a .517 winning percentage.
This team should be a .517 team, minimum.
Except they are in reality a .449 team, as of Monday morning.
That isn’t a short bridge to build. Not with 13 games left to go.
Every day is a new woe, and a new low. This time it was a sixth inning that was set aflame when Brad Brach couldn’t throw strikes and Jared Hughes couldn’t bail him out. Brach issued three straight walks. Hughes added another, and then a bases-clearing triple, and a single, and 2-1 had become 7-1 and that was that at Sahlen Field. And maybe for 2020.
“I pretty much stunk,” Brach said, an honest assessment from a stand-up guy that can serve as a valedictory for the team at large. “It’s been one thing after another,” he said, this time referring to the team at large, and he is quite right.
The Marlins never have been put in their place, and have taken it to the Phillies this weekend. The Mets have become what the Marlins were supposed to be, patsies who simply can’t get out of their own way, can’t put together a hot streak, can’t even win four games in a row. If that’s how it’s going to be, the Mets won’t even last the week.
It has become simple: they must sweep the Phillies, in Philly, this week. They need to take two out of three from the Braves next weekend. Even that might not be enough. But that’ll mean a hot streak for the first time all year, and a puncher’s chance, if they actually have any punch. If it’s going to happen at all, it must happen now. Period.