By Rich Coutinho
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I surely got your attention with that headline — but it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds.
New York’s lineup is the biggest reason why the Mets are in the midst of a 5-game winning streak. They have the ability to not only score runs early, but tack on runs late. Think about the pressure that’s taken off their bullpen.
Back in spring training, Terry Collins and I had a conversation during one of Carlos Beltran’s many batting practice sessions. The Mets manager laid it out for me in simple terms: “Is there a better group of five hitters in the league than Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Bay and Davis? I don’t think so, and if we’re healthy we’ll be as good as any offense in the league.”
At first, I thought it was a new manager’s bravado, Collins trying to convince himself his team was better than it actually was. But then I looked at the numbers these guys put up in their last healthy season and it occurred to me — Collins might have been right on target on this one. As it turned out, Bay started the season on the disabled list. With Pagan there, the team was still missing an everyday player.
Pound for pound this lineup has more sizzle than any team in the league. The Phillies you say? Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco and an injured Chase Utley — I’d rather have the Mets’ quintet. The Braves are short a bat and the Giants don’t measure up offensively. The Rockies are a possibility, but they don’t possess the lead off threat the Mets have in Reyes.
Go ahead. Go up and down the lineups in the National League. You will find out — as I did — that if the big bats are healthy, no team measures up to the Mets. Not in terms of RBI sizzle, not in terms of team speed, not in terms of batting average even in the spacious surroundings of Citi Field. The 2006 Mets made scoring in the first inning a club trademark and transformed themselves into a great road team, putting some many clubs at an automatic disadvantage from the jump every night. This team has done its fair share of first inning scoring, especially in the last week or so, and that type of offensive start could compensate for a lot of weaknesses — like thin starting pitching.
The Mets’ success will indeed depend on both their starting pitching and their bullpen — but this lineup will help them win a boatload of games, and that has not been the case for the past 3 seasons. Their star players just could not stay on the field. And that is the key here — health. It always has been and always will be with the Mets. But in the past week, the Mets have reclaimed some of their shaken confidence after a 5-13 start. It’s due to Jose Reyes and a quartet of RBI threats.
Relying on your offense can be a slippery slope. But for a team that was close to falling off the cliff just a week ago, the Mets finally have something they can rely on — a high-octane offense. And that will only help the pitchers relax as the offense keeps rolling — and the Mets keep winning.
Do any NL lineups stack up to the Mets? Let Coutinho know in the comments below…