By Ed Coleman
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Who are these guys? The Beasts of the East, that’s who. Mets manager Terry Collins stated this spring – “We’re better than people think we are” – and his team has set out to prove him right. The Mets have ripped off five in a row, including a sweep of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (which hadn’t happened since 2006) with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee starting two of the games. They’ve won 13 of 18 from N.L. East opponents thus far, and they’re currently playing without their starting shortstop, catcher, left-fielder and a starting pitcher. Anyone care to re-configure those pre-season predictions?
Collins is living large right now, loving the way his team has responded to the challenge.
The Mets have been the Kardiac Kids – 11 of their 18 wins have been come-from-behind victories, which leads the majors, with 6 of them coming on the road. Collins says it’s been a total team effort that has to continue.
Justin Turner is one of those 25 guys, filling for disabled SS Ruben Tejada at the moment. Turner says it’s great to see a different hero every night.
The slump-ridden Ike Davis hit his first home run in 18 games on Wednesday night, added a double, and knocked in 3 runs. The Mets have been patient with Davis as he tries to awake from his slumber, and Collins believes it may be starting to pay off.
Even when a starting pitcher falters, the Mets have responded to pick him up. Dillon Gee left on the wrong end of a 4-2 score on Wednesday night, but loved watching his teammates score 8 runs over the final three innings to come back on a night when he didn’t have his best stuff.
Andres Torres is another example. When Torres went on the D.L. and Kirk Nieuwenhuis arrived on the scene and immediately impressed, most Met fans didn’t care if Torres ever returned. But Torres has injected energy, speed, solid offense and splendid defense since coming back. He homered, tripled and knocked in 2 runs on Wednesday, drew a huge walk off Halladay with a great at-bat on Monday, is hitting .333 with 8 RBI in just 36 AB, has a .429 OBP, and has reached base safely in all 10 of his games this season. Torres has bought into the system of seeing pitches and working the count, and Collins says it’s paying dividends.
What really has paid off for the Mets is that they continue to be 2-out wonders. They are hitting .269 with RISP but it jumps to .289 with two outs. The Mets scored 11 two-out runs during the three game sweep of the Phillies, and have plated 41 two-out runs over their last 15 games. Overall, the team has scored 68 runs with two outs this season – tops in the majors. And the Mets are batting .294 with two outs – the highest average in the major leagues.
Acosta, Byrdak, Baxter, Nickeas, Valdespin – all well and good. But the guy who brings it all together is still # 5 – David Wright – the right man for the job. He’s 5th in the majors with a .376 batting average – 2nd in the majors with a .475 OBP. Wright has 20 walks and a .554 slugging percentage, and he’s reached base safely in 26 of his 28 games. Collins marvels at the example he’s setting for his young teammates.
Wright has never shied away from being a leader for this team, and this is the kind of team that he envisioned leading this season.
What’s next? The Miami Marlins in their new south Florida home. The Mets swept the Fish in a 3-game set at Citi Field when the Marlins were struggling, but Miami went west and got healthy and have won 8 of their last 9. Another challenge? Wright’s OK with that.
C U soon