Monday, June 12, 2017

Mets Series Win in Atlanta Must Be Turning Point

At 28-33 considering all the circumstances of this season, the Mets are still floundering. There is nothing good about being five games under .500, 9.5 games out of first in the NL East, and 8.5 out of a wild card.

But if the Mets want to take any solace it is this. It is only June 12. And the events of this weekend should (believe it or not) should give Mets fans some sliver of optimism. The Mets are coming off a huge weekend. A weekend where not only did they take three of four from the Atlanta Braves on the road, but got healthier in the process.

Yoenis Cespedes returned to the Mets lineup on Saturday after missing a better part of the last month and a half with a hamstring injury. The Mets missed having the slugger in their lineup, they were 15-19 without him, and watched their lineup become lefty-dominant -- which is never a good thing. Once back in the lineup, Cespedes gave the Mets some credibility on Saturday afternoon, and when he cracked a grand slam homer in the ninth inning to give the Mets a 6-1 win, it was a weight was lifted.

Suddenly the Mets were feeling good about themselves. Robert Gsellman pitched a gem that afternoon, and for the first time in a long time, with the second game of the double-header that night and a game on Sunday, the Mets had something to look forward to.

Why? Because they had Steven Matz and Seth Lugo returning from season long DL stints making their season debuts on the mound. Neither disappointed.

Matz was masterful over seven innings against the Braves. He held Atlanta to just a run on five hits, and looked like the dominant lefty that came up through the Mets system two seasons ago. Jay Bruce added a three-run homer to boot, and the Mets were on their way to an 8-1 win.

Then on Sunday, Seth Lugo was terrific for the Mets in his season debut. He worked in and out of trouble all day, including getting a favorable replay call on a double-play ball in the fifth to hold a slim 2-1 lead. What was even more impressive about Lugo on Sunday, was that even after getting out of that fifth inning jam, he would return to retire the side in order in his final two innings of work. Lugo's line seven innings pitched, allowing only one run on six hits with six strikeouts.

Like Gsellman before him, Lugo has been the mystery man in the Mets rotation. He pitched well in a very small sample size last year when the Mets needed bodies at the end of the season. Then in Spring Training, he dazzled for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic before getting injured. Yet the questions remain as to how good Lugo can be? Perhaps Sunday was the first of many answers. At least Mets fans can hope.

While the Mets stand at 28-33, and will face the toughest part of the schedule over the next 10 days with games against the Cubs, Nationals and Dodgers on the docket -- there is a sliver of hope. The Cubs stand at .500 at 31-31. That is right a team many thought coming into the season was a shoe-in for a repeat run at the World Series is a mediocre bunch that comes limping into Citi Field.

The Cubs lost four straight before winning on Sunday against the red-hot Rockies. Chicago has had its issues. They aren't hitting the ball as well as one would think. The talented Anthony Rizzo leads the team with 37 RBI -- slightly disappointing when one considers that Kris Bryant only has 27 RBI, Addison Russell has only 20 and Kyle Schwarber can't get out of his own way with a .171 batting average.

Not to mention that the Cubs starting rotation has seen its fair share of bumps this year and almost everyone has an ERA near or above 4.00.

This is not to say the Mets are perfect and should beat up the Cubs. Quiet the contrary. The Cubs should do well this week -- they are the better, more talented team. But, for the first time since Opening Day the Mets should feel that this is their second, and likely, final chance to turn around this season.

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