By Lenn Robbins
Miracle Makers or Dream Teasers?
The time has come for the Mets to declare.
They are the hottest team in baseball, having won 14 of their last 15. They have gone 20-6 since the All-Star Break. They are a season-high 12 games above .500. They are one-half a game out of the Wild Card.
One-half a game.
This weekend they face the question on everyone baseball fans’ mind, on their mind: Are the Mets contenders or pretenders?
The Washington Nationals, also a team once enduring a bust of a season, come to Citi Field for a three-game series starting on Friday. The Nat’s own the first Wild Card with a 61-53 record. The Nats were 19-31 on May, 23rd after getting swept by – the Mets. It was a four-game sweep.
Man, did the Nats turn it around.
Man, did the Mets turn it around?
“You got to slay the giant so to speak,’’ rookie slugger Pete Alonso told reporters after Wednesday’s 7-2 dusting of the Marlins. “You have to go through these tough teams in order to get to the playoffs and when you get to the playoffs it’s just going to be that much harder.
“If we keep playing the way we are, we’ve hit well, our defense has been awesome and our pitching has been light’s out, so I think that’s going to be a really tough combo.’’
This is the time to see just how tough are the Mets. They say their early-season struggles only made them tougher, closer, more confident. But were they tough players in a soft stretch.
Those 20 wins have come against the Marlins, Twins, Giants Padres, Pirates and White Sox.
If the season were to end today, only the Twins would be in the playoffs. The Marlins and Pirates occupy last place in their respective division. The Padres are half a game out of last place in the NL West.
The Giants, like the Mets, became buyers, not sellers at the trade deadline. They just got swept by the Nationals. Yes, the Nats already revealed one surging team to be a fraud.
Are the Mets next?
“What we’ve done is not easy but it’s in the past,’’ manager Mickey Callaway said. “Our focus is on the next game. The things that we’ve been through are going to allow us to be a better team than we otherwise would have been down the stretch. We’re trying to accomplish something as a team together that can be very special.”
Special? Yes. Magical? Perhaps.
The National were expected to be in the playoff discussion. They Mets were not.
The Mets recently lost Robinson Cano to a torn hamstring. The Nats will be without Bryce Harper, who just went on the Injured List with a bruised knee.
The field is even. Are the two teams? It’s time for the Mets to declare.
“We’ve got a chance to do something really great,’’ Alonso said.
They really do.