Evidence mounts that this will not be the Mets’ year. Onto that ever-growing pile goes Wednesday night’s game when their most reliable starter, Jacob deGrom, delivered a dud and the previously hot offense went hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
There was no fourth straight victory. Rather there was a 15th game this season — the second-most in the NL — the Mets gave up at least seven runs in losing 7-1 to the Brewers. Remember pitching, namely starting pitching, was going to be the 2017 Mets’ strength.
But when deGrom yields the second-most earned runs (seven) he ever has in a game and the team falls five games under .500, well, optimism becomes more and more like a .400 hitter — hard to find.
Let’s try anyway.
After all, the calendar is just flipping to June, so there are still four months to play and barring injury — fill in your own punch lines here — Yoenis Cespedes is due back next week to deepen a lineup that mainly thrived without him. Plus Seth Lugo and Steven Matz are expected to fortify the rotation — the positive spillover being Robert Gsellman heading to a leaky pen.
There also is this — the Mets are in the National League, which in 2017 might better be dubbed the inter-National League, such is the mostly inferior quality of play.
Consider that if they were in the AL BEast, the Mets would have the sixth-best record in a five-team division. In the NL LEast, they are in second place and there are just five teams in the whole league over .500.
Still, those teams over .500 create a problem, the smallest of which is the Mets’ current opponent, the Brewers, who are just 28-25, which was actually good for first in the NL Central.
The four best records, though, belonged to Washington, Los Angeles, Colorado and Arizona. That left the Mets 9 ¹/₂ games behind the Nationals in the NL East, and because the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks are all in the NL West, it left the Mets eight behind Arizona and Colorado for the second wild card.
The Nats and Dodgers are the superb teams of expectations.
Surprisingly, the Rockies were on a 99-win pace and the Diamondbacks 97. The Mets are just going to have to believe that those teams, in particular, or at least one of them cannot sustain this level.
The Rockies, though, look like no fluke. In their first 24 years of existence, they finished over .500 on the road once — 41-40 in 2009. This year they went into Wednesday 18-8 away from Coors, a .692 winning percentage. That would be the best to finish a season since the 1912 New York Giants (.701), who of course never had to play a mile high or ever travel west of St. Louis.
Colorado has the best pitching depth in its history and enough organizational depth to make a July trade if needed. The Rockies’ soft spot might be three rookies in the rotation (though ace Jon Gray should be back soon and Chad Bettis might make it back, too) and a roster deep in players who have never played big major league games.
Arizona is the more vulnerable of the two, in part because its baseball operations group is in its first year and down deep saw this as more of a rebuild than go-for-it season. The organizational depth, especially in ready pitching, is not as available.
There is also this: the Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks have lots of games left against each other and if you believe the Giants are better than their record, throw them into NL West showdowns in which the teams beat up each other.
The Mets, to date, have not capitalized on the Braves, Marlins and Phillies, going just 12-12 against three of the majors’ worst teams. But there are still 33 games left against that trio. And it won’t matter what happens out West if the Mets do not feast in the East.
This is where they hope Cespedes, Matz and Lugo upgrade the quality of play. Sandy Alderson’s history is to aggressively improve his roster in July if he has a contender and sitting out in the distance, perhaps, waiting to help for a stretch run are Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia.
Now, these are the Mets. They annually have difficulty getting healthy, staying healthy and generally receiving positive results when it comes to their injured players.
But if you are looking for optimism — with another dispiriting loss now in the books — the Mets are on the brink of having a better roster in the coming days while operating in a forgiving league. Thirteen of the Mets’ final 16 games are against the Braves, Marlins and Phillies. Between then and now can they make that soft landing spot matter?