All of a sudden, the Mets look amazin’ again.
Led by a strong starting rotation and recently fortified with one big bat, the Mets have accelerated past the Nationals to take control of the National League East. And fans are energized, as Citi Field rocked last weekend while the Mets swept the Nationals to overtake them for the division lead.
They suddenly look like they could be a dangerous postseason team, if they make it.
We’ll get to the pitching staff — it’s impossible to ignore that strong-armed group. But the Mets entered the weekend having won nine of their past 11 games as their offense has picked up. Before the July 31 trade deadline, the Mets added outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, giving them the big bat they were missing.
They also have gotten a lift from first baseman Lucas Duda, who recently hit nine home runs in an eight-game span to remind Mets fans of the player who swatted 30 home runs a year ago. Now the Mets have a nice problem on their hands. Starting outfielder and former Twin Michael Cuddyer is set to come off the disabled list; he has recovered from a bone bruise in his left knee.
But Cuddyer sounded resigned to life as a reserve when he spoke to Mets reporters.
“It’s getting better, and it’s to the point where I think I can come back now. I feel ready to get in some games and see where we are in that regard,” he said. “I’ve spent my share of time on the DL and it’s never fun, no question about it — especially when we’re having as much fun as we’re having up in New York right now.
“I’m there and supporting on the bench and cheerleading, but it’s a little different when you’re involved.”
He’s not the only Twins connection on the roster. Reliever Sean Gilmartin, whom the Twins received from the Braves for Ryan Doumit before the 2014 season, has a sleek 2.20 ERA. The Twins lost him to the Mets in the Rule 5 draft in December.
What makes the Mets a threat is their ridiculously talented starting pitching rotation of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and veteran Bartlolo Colon. ESPN pointed out that Mets starters have thrown more than 2,500 pitches of at least 95 miles per hour. That’s supernova heat. Combine that with the fact that Mets starters rank third in fewest walks allowed, and you have a staff that is confident and aggressive.
Another Twins connection here. Niese was reportedly one of the pitchers the Twins considered when they dealt Johan Santana to the Mets before the 2008 season. How different might things have been if the Twins had taken Niese instead of Deolis Guerra?
Niese has stuck with the Mets and now is in a pennant race. The Nationals are not out of it, and they welcomed back flamethrower Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. But, unlike the Mets, their offense has yet to catch fire, and it might cost them the playoffs.
Meanwhile, a Mets team that finished under .500 a year ago is charging toward its first postseason berth since 2006.
• Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera might have been rushed back into service if the Tigers felt they had a shot at a playoff spot. But with their chances fading they are taking a more cautious approach.
Cabrera was going to begin a minor league rehab assignment about now, but that has been delayed.
• Reliever Nate Jones is ready to return to the White Sox after missing just more than a year because of Tommy John surgery. He was taken off the 60-day disabled list in time for Wednesday’s game.
In nine rehabilitation games with Class A Winston-Salem and Class AAA Charlotte, Jones posted a 1.93 ERA while reaching 100 miles per hour on the radar gun.
• When healthy, Jason Kipnis is one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, but he struggled last season as he played through injuries and now has landed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
His shoulder has bothered him when he’s thrown the baseball. It never showed in his bat, as he’s hitting .326 this season.
• Alex Gordon is making good progress from the Grade 2-plus groin strain he suffered on July 8. He’s doing agility drills and hoped to take batting practice and shag fly balls sometime this weekend.
Indications are that he could be ready to rejoin the Royals by the end of the month.
The 3-2 pitch
Here are three observations....
• Yankees righthander Luis Severino was impressive in his first start and definitely can help New York in its pennant drive.
• Kyle Lohse might have taken a bat to Ron Gardenhire’s door, but he’s a good man. Too bad he has been pulled from the Brewers rotation.
• Would not be surprised if Dave Dombrowski is with another club before the end of the season. He’s a high-quality baseball executive.
...and two predictions.
• Toronto’s buildup before the trade deadline will help the Blue Jays overtake the Yankees and win the AL East.
• Top prospect Byron Buxton will return to the Twins by the end of the month.