The 6-3 New York Mets did not lose Sunday afternoon because of a wild pitch from Ramon Ramirez. They didn't lose because of Manny Acosta's inability to find the strike zone. They lost because of defense, if that is what you wish to call it. And despite an impressive 6-3 record to start the season, the New York Mets' defense will not keep them above .500 for much longer. Granted, I was not expecting the Mets to sweep the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend at Citizens Bank Park. I think to take two out of three this weekend was a home run and with Mike Pelfrey scheduled to start on Sunday, I went into the game with the attitude of "we're probably going to lose this game, and that's fine." Having said that, with a lead for the majority of the afternoon, and an opportunity to win the game, I was very concerned with what I saw yesterday.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Lucas Duda let a fly ball drop that the average right fielder probably gets to. While it was not scored as an error, it was nonetheless a ball a Major League right fielder should be able to grab on a consistent basis, and it let the eventual tying run, Jimmy Rollins, reach first base. A few batters later, Laynce Nix hit a ball to the deep leftfield corner. While Scott Hairston made a respectable attempt, he failed to come down with the ball, allowing the Phillies to take the lead. From there, all the screws came loose as an inning later, Manny Acosta was charged with five unearned runs due to Ruben Tejada's (officially scored) throwing error.
When you look at the raw scorecard from Sunday's game, only one error is present. However, it is quite clear that while both Duda's and Hairston's plays were not as easy as they come, the average Major League outfielder should have been able to record an out on both of those fly balls and keep the Mets from staying within reach of their third straight victory. And for what it's worth, anyone who has watched the Mets consistently over the past several seasons knows that those were balls guys like Angel Pagan and Carlos Beltran easily would have caught. Defense can sometimes slide under the radar as a factor in a championship team, but the fact is that a team cannot win without a good defensive lineup and seemingly unimportant errors tend to hurt you in the end.
Having said all of that, the Mets should be happy with where they are as a team. While any team can go on a 6-3 stretch throughout the course of a 162 game schedule, there is no doubt that there are positive feelings in the Mets clubhouse right now, in addition to the Mets fan base. Last week, for the first time since June 2010, there were more viewers that tuned into SNY to see the Mets than the YES Network to watch the New York Yankees. Though no one is lining up for playoff tickets yet, this Mets team has certainly been fun to watch, and I'm hoping that they can provide this type of entertainment for at least a little while longer, if not another six months.
To win 90 games, which is and will always be my magic number to earn a playoff spot, you need to win two out of three at home and play .500 on the road. With a 4-2 home stand to begin the season and a victorious weekend in Philadelphia, the Mets don't need to do a whole lot in Atlanta this week to come away with, in my mind, a successful road trip against two tough division rivals. Following their visit to Turner Field, the Mets will then find themselves back in Flushing to face a now "Brian Wilsonless" San Francisco Giants, an issue that will undoubtedly impact their ability to compete this summer. So whatever your feelings are toward this team nine games into the season, and despite the numerous problems that are more than likely to showcase themselves in the near future, have fun with this squad. It may not always be pretty, but up to this point, it's hard not to love the effort and it is definitely a nice change of pace to not have to throw my remote against the wall on a nightly basis.
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