- Last Updated: 3:38 AM, July 10, 2012
- Posted: 1:11 AM, July 9, 2012
As resilient as the Mets have been this season and as intriguing as every day at the ballpark has been, no team should welcome the All-Star break more than the Mets.
They had hoped to finish the first half on a good note by winning a three-game series against the Cubs. But that goal was ruined in the first inning of yesterday’s game at Citi Field when Jonathon Niese allowed four runs and the Mets couldn’t respond en route to a lethargic 7-0 loss.
Losing two of three to the last-place Cubs doesn’t exactly pour cold water on all the Mets have accomplished over the last three-plus months. Had they been asked in April whether they’d accept being 46-40 and in playoff contention at the break, to a man they would have signed up for it.
“Definitely,” outfielder Scott Hairston said. “Terry [Collins] came in after the game and said, ‘Great first half. You guys played hard.’ And there’s no reason to hang our head. We do need a break, though, so we’re going to enjoy these next four days.”
The Mets do need the break, and there’s no shame in admitting that. They are showing signs of wobbling and need the time to rest their bodies and clear their heads. It has been a battle just to get where they are. They don’t have the talent to overpower teams. They don’t win laughers. They grind for two-out hits; they grind to win close games. They beat people by doing the little things.
“It takes a toll physically and mentally,” Hairston said. “Everybody needs a break and it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being human.”
The timing couldn’t be better. The Mets didn’t feel great about losing two of three to the Cubs — after doing the same in Chicago late last month — and watching three of their starters get pounded during the homestand. R.A. Dickey, who heads to the All-Star Game, gave up a season-high 11 hits against the Phillies the night before Johan Santana tied a career high, allowing 13 hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Cubs. Yesterday, Niese gave up four runs after just 15 pitches. The Mets looked like they didn’t have the strength to fight back.
“We didn’t do anything offensively,” Collins said. “Those were certainly not the at-bats we’re used to seeing.”
The break gives the Mets a chance to exhale. They believe they can compete for a playoff berth, but know they must play even better than they did in the first half to have a chance. Keeping the starting rotation healthy, getting more consistency out of the bullpen and improving their at-bats against left-handed pitching were areas Collins cited as key factors to staying in contention.
“We’ve got to start next week realizing we’re in a fight,” the manager said, “and we’ve got to get ready.”
Collins is also hopeful of getting a better second half from Ike Davis, whose .201 average doesn’t look as dreadful now that he has 12 homers and 49 RBIs.
“When he was going through the real, real, tough time, I thought it was a great humility check for him to let him know that this game is not easy even though you’re blessed with as great ability as he has,” Collins said. “I think he’s going to get better because of the challenge he had to face.”
The Mets were the only ones who believed in themselves when they left Port St. Lucie. They’ve added a few more believers to their bandwagon, but still don’t scare anyone. In four days, the real grind begins with road games against the Braves and Nationals. They’ll catch no one by surprise now.
“In spring training a lot of people were counting us out,” Justin Turner said. “Some still do. We’ll take these next four days to rest up and get healthy and re-energized. We look forward to making a run at this thing.”