COMMENTARY | Don't look now, but the New York Mets are playing good baseball.
While it might not be anything to write home about, considering what this franchise has been through the past couple of years, what the Mets have done over the past 20 games has to be looked at as an accomplishment. And, yes, I realize that the bar isn't being set very high.
From June 18 through July 7, the Mets are 12-8. The record is one thing -- the Mets are winning more consistently -- but after winning two out of three games over the weekend in Milwaukee, the Mets seem to have a little bit of a bounce in their step.
Maybe the Mets got tired of hearing everyone say how bad they were. They've been hearing that for some time, after all. But for three weeks, the Mets have been a different team than the one that lost five games to the Marlins in late May and early June.
The Mets might be 11 games under .500, but you have to feel a lot better about this team given the way they've played starting on that Tuesday in Atlanta when they took two games from the Braves.
Let's take a closer look at what's going right for the Mets:
The Lineup: The lineup suddenly has a little more punch to it. One example would be Marlon Byrd, who has become one of the Mets' most reliable hitters with 13 home runs and 43 runs batted in. Some new faces like Josh Satin (11-game hitting streak) have been welcomed additions. And David Wright isn't just the National League's starting third baseman in next week's All-Star Game because it's being played at Citi Field. He also happens to be having a fine season (.306 batting average, 13 homers, 43 RBIs). It will be important for the Mets to get Ike Davis going, because a lineup consisting of Daniel Murphy, Wright, Byrd, and Davis (or Satin) has an upside.
The Starting Staff: The Mets are clearly building for a future built around their starting rotation, and their pitchers have delivered. The latest contribution came yesterday in Milwaukee, with Jeremy Hefner turning in another strong performance, allowing just two hits and one run over seven innings. Matt Harvey is getting all the attention, but quietly the Mets are building a complete staff. Zack Wheeler's start this week in San Francisco will be a big one for him, and also for the Mets.
The Bullpen: While the bullpen, at least as presently constructed, will never be great, it has improved. Bobby Parnell picked up his 15th save on Sunday, and he's become a reliable closer for New York.
The Manager: You have to give a lot of credit to Terry Collins. This is a guy without a contract for next season, and a manager who doesn't have a whole lot of talent on his roster. Still, the Mets are showing up at the ballpark every day ready to play. Collins had a good first half in both of the last two seasons, but the Mets would go on to struggle in the second half both years. For Collins' sake, and for the sake of the organization, the Mets can't collapse after the All-Star break this time around.
The way they've been playing of late offers some hope that they won't.
Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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