Can the New York Mets repair their flaws earlier than the playoffs?

By Deesha Thosar
FOX Sports activities MLB Author

NEW YORK — A month from now, the Mets anticipate taking part in of their first Nationwide League Division Sequence since 2015. However to get there, their efficiency have to be vastly completely different — and vastly superior — to what they displayed in Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Cubs

The Mets’ offense set the tone as early as the primary inning, once they loaded the bases in opposition to Chicago’s Javier Assad, a rookie right-hander who wound up troubling New York hitters all evening. The highest of the Mets’ lineup grinded out at-bats, sending six males to the plate within the opening body. 

However with two outs and the bases loaded, Mark Canha by no means took his bat off his shoulder. He struck out on 4 pitches, and the Mets didn’t capitalize, ending their risk moderately than giving right-hander Chris Bassitt early run help.

Bassitt, counter to his latest profitable outings and his larger-season pattern, turned in his second-shortest outing of the 12 months. The veteran coughed up 5 earned runs in 3.2 innings earlier than departing, head down and disposition disgruntled, for the showers. Bassitt’s uncommon tough begin was a tricky scenario that turned simple to think about recurring just some weeks from now, when the Mets are more likely to be competing within the postseason. 

If their veteran, sometimes dependable starter mucks it up on an October evening, the Mets will wish to reply and choose him up instantly, earlier than the rating will get out of hand. But when Monday was a take a look at run of how issues will unfold within the playoffs, Mets followers, attempting optimism for a change, will want higher causes to take a look at the glass as half-full.

Assad pitched six innings of one-run ball within the fifth major-league begin of his profession. However this was no lights-out efficiency, as New York left 10 males on base and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring place, with no misplaced alternative stinging greater than the botched efficiency within the eighth. 

Down 5-1 with six outs to spare, Jeff McNeil led off the inning with a hustling infield single, full with a head-first slide into first base. Pete Alonso adopted with a line-drive single to left subject, and Daniel Vogelbach labored a four-pitch stroll to load the bases with no one out. 

However Canha, who crushed his first profession grand slam two nights prior in Miami, apparently left that mojo in South Florida. For the second time Monday, he struck out with the bases loaded. Then Eduardo Escobar, swinging a scorching bat the previous couple of weeks since coming off the injured checklist, popped out to shallow middle. 

Then Buck Showalter had a choice to make, one that might change the results of the sport. With proper fielder Tyler Naquin due up, the Mets supervisor had a few pinch-hit choices on the bench. One was Mark Vientos, an thrilling younger rookie, known as up this previous weekend in Miami, who crushed lefties at a .330/.408/.732 clip in 68 video games for Triple-A Syracuse this 12 months. The opposite was Darin Ruf, a slumping veteran mired in an 0-for-16 skid and sporting one hit in his previous 34 at-bats, for whom the Mets traded 4 gamers eventually month’s deadline. 

Showalter opted for the latter, and sadly for the Mets, what adopted was predictable.

Vientos remained on the bench, and Ruf flew out to proper subject in opposition to Chicago southpaw Brandon Hughes, ending the Mets’ greatest likelihood to beat the 59-82 Cubs. Mets followers who caught round by way of the rain at Citi Discipline had been incredulous, some frozen with their fingers on their heads and others emphatically booing the end result. 

Afterward, Ruf was cagey, defiant and terse when explaining what went flawed in that eighth-inning at-bat. Who wouldn’t be ticked off — throughout a pennant race, no much less — after the stretch he’s had?

“It’s frustrating,” he mentioned. “I’m just trying to have good at-bats, and sometimes you need a little luck.”

Nonetheless, it’s unfair to pin Monday’s loss utterly on Ruf. The 2 batters earlier than him additionally turned in unproductive at-bats. Vientos went unused as everybody was left to surprise what may’ve been. Bassitt struggled on an off-night. 

Afterward, Showalter defended his choice to pinch-hit Ruf over Vientos by citing the veteran hitter’s observe file. In his 10-year big-league profession, Ruf has 39 dwelling runs and an .897 OPS in opposition to lefties. However, in utilizing Ruf, Showalter missed his latest historical past, which, since becoming a member of the Mets on the commerce deadline, incorporates a .137 batting common (7-for-51) and 15 strikeouts in 22 video games.

“We keep waiting,” Showalter mentioned. “We think that Darin’s been really good in that spot for his career. It hasn’t been there for him lately.”

The issue is that this Mets offense may use a spark — notably at designated hitter — after going 5-5 in 10 video games in opposition to the Marlins, Nationals, Pirates and Cubs this month. All 4 of these groups are within the basement of their respective leagues; none of them is vying for a playoff spot. Earlier than the All-Star break, the Mets had the worst OPS (.614) within the NL at DH, ranked third-worst in MLB. 

Mets GM Billy Eppler acquired Vogelbach, Naquin and Ruf on the commerce deadline aiming to enhance the staff’s effectivity at DH, however all three have been largely disappointing. Since these trades, the Mets’ designated hitters have posted a .587 OPS on the place, nonetheless the worst within the NL. 

It’s not just like the Mets lack urgency, even with their 100% likelihood of creating the playoffs, per FanGraphs, with 20 video games to go. Simply take a look at McNeil’s head-first dive into first base to see how badly they wish to win these video games in opposition to lesser opponents. However it’s attainable some hitters are, as Showalter put it, “trying to do too much,” which is resulting in botched hitting approaches and disjointed outcomes.

On Monday, it turned a lot too simple to think about those self same conditions unfolding in October. The Mets are relying on Jacob deGrom to steer the rotation, Max Scherzer to heal from his left-side irritation/fatigue and Bassitt to ship like he has for many of the season. However hiccups occur, and once they do, it’s crucial that Mets hitters can choose up their pitching employees.

Mets star Max Scherzer is headed to the injured checklist

Ben Verlander and Deesha Thosar talk about Max Scherzer’s journey to the IL and the way it impacts the Mets’ possibilities to win the NL East.

And the factor is, the panorama in October might be a lot harder — and far more aggressive — than it was Monday. The Mets confronted a sub-.500 staff they had been greater than able to thrashing on their greatest day. Getting crushed by Assad? Attempt dealing with the Braves’ Max Fried or Spencer Strider, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw or Tyler Anderson and the Astros’ Justin Verlander or Framber Valdez.

The Mets (89-53) nonetheless have the third-best file in baseball, they’re nonetheless in first place within the NL East, and their magic quantity to succeed in the playoffs for the primary time in six years is eight. However in addition they nonetheless have the Braves (87-54) to fend off for the division title, and so they nonetheless need that bye-week and a direct ticket to the NLDS, moderately than taking part in a wild-card collection. 

Monday confirmed that the Mets can not afford lapses or breaks. It’s going to take the very best from each single participant on their postseason roster to make a deep run. 

Deesha Thosar is an MLB author for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand coated the Mets for the New York Each day News. Comply with her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

Get extra from Main League Baseball Comply with your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra.