Kurtzberg’s Corner: July Holds the Key to Mets Season

The New York Mets remain one of the bigger surprises in the National League this year, sitting with a 43-37 record after 80 games as of July 2nd.

Terry Collins

Terry Collins . Photo by:  Sharon Chapman

It’s not just the winning record that is a surprise to most fans. The Mets  are in the thick of the race for the playoffs right now, standing just 3 1/2 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East and just 1/2 game behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the race for the second wild card in the NL.

While everyone has been waiting for the Mets to falter and fall apart, every time they lose a few games in a row, Terry Collins‘ bunch bounces back and wins a few games in a row to keep themselves a few games above the .50o mark.

Despite their streaky nature, the Mets have actually been pretty consistent over the course of the season, going 13-10 in April, 15-13 in May and 15-13 again in June. If they maintain this pace, we’re looking at about 87 wins for the season, which would put them in the thick of the race for one of the Wild Card spots.

July looks like a critical month for the Mets success. They have six games before the All Star break and all of them are against last place teams and at CitiField. First, the slumping Phillies come to town for three games, then the NL Central cellar dwellers, the Chicago Cubs come to Flushing for the final three games before the mid-summer classic.

After the break, the Mets go on a key six game road trip against division rivals Atlanta and Washington, the teams directly in front of and directly behind New York in the division standings.

The next home stand features three-game visits from two contending teams, the Dodgers and Nationals before the Mets head west to close out the month with four games in Arizona and four in San Francisco (two of which open the month of August).

If the Mets can again finish July two or three games over .500, they will remain in the thick of the race for a playoff berth.

At the end of the month, the Mets face another milestone: the trade deadline. GM Sandy Alderson has said that ownership will make money available to bring in a key player if the team is in contention. After the past few seasons, most fans are taking a wait and see attitude, but assuming Alderson is telling the truth, the bullpen is the area the Mets need the most help with right now.

The Mets relievers are dead last in the Majors with a 4.93 ERA through the first half of the season and opposing hitters are batting .265 against the bullpen.

Closer Frank Francisco has been inconsistent and is now on the DL with a strained oblique muscle. He is also still a few weeks away from rejoining the team. If Alderson can bring in a steady reliever with the ability to close out games, that would help alleviate the club’s biggest weakness.

Huston Street is having a super year for the Padres and is rumored to be available. Alderson would do well to make a deal with the Padres, who are already out of contention, to bring Street to Flushing.

July truly is the key to the Mets season. They have been a pleasant surprise and very entertaining so far this season. By the end of this month, we’ll know if the Metropolitans are contenders or pretenders, buyers or sellers. It’s put up or shut up time for the Mets and by August 1st, fans will know how resilient this team truly is.

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