The New York Mets knew the stretch starting June 9 against the Atlanta Braves where the team would play 18 games in 17 days would be crucial for them.
The grueling schedule started off positive, taking three of four from the Braves in Atlanta, followed by winning the series against the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field.
With the team sitting 8.5 games back of the National League East leading Washington Nationals entering their four-game series with their rivals, the Mets had the perfect opportunity to be within 4.5 games if they swept, a place they haven’t been since May 9.
However, the Mets dropped the first three games to the Nationals, and salvaged the finale on the back of their ace right-hander, Jacob deGrom.
If the Nationals series felt like a sucker punch to the face, the ensuing four games with the Los Angeles Dodgers would be a complete and total knockout from start to to finish.
The Dodgers swept the Mets in the weeknight series and outscored the team 36-11.
It was the Dodgers first four-game series sweep of the Mets since 1979, and the 15 home runs Met pitching allowed was the most given up in a series in team history.
Following the Dodgers bludgeoning, the Mets stayed out on the West Coast to face the San Francisco Giants — the team that knocked them out of the Wild Card Game last season.
Amazingly, the Giants are having a worse year than the Mets, sporting a 28-51 record to the Mets 34-41.
The Mets took advantage of the Giants, who had dropped nine of their previous 10 games, and swept the team for the first time in San Francisco since 2013.
The team even got a terrific start from enigma Rafael Montero, who turned in 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, with seven strikeouts and just two walks.
Since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas this most recent time, Montero has thrown 12 1/3 innings, sporting a 1.46 ERA with 15 strikeouts to just four walks. His 0.97 WHIP in the month of June is the lowest WHIP for any month of his major league career.
With the Mets having the day off Monday, they look to keep the winning momentum going with a three-game series against the Miami Marlins starting Tuesday night, followed by three games at home with the Philadelphia Phillies.
As always, here are your MMO Players of the Week for June 19-25.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CURTIS GRANDERSON
Curtis Granderson earns MMO’s Offensive Player of the Week after slashing .455/.552/1.045 with three home runs, two doubles, one triple, five RBI, six walks and seven runs scored.
Granderson’s 10 hits and 1.597 OPS led the Mets over the past week, even with him not starting the first two games in Los Angeles (However, he pinched-hit in both).
After a disastrous start to the 2017 season in which Granderson posted a measly .148/.214/.273 slash line from Opening Day to May 15, the outfielder has done a complete 180 at the plate the last several weeks.
For the month of June, Granderson leads the team in SLG (.717), and is second in home runs (seven) and OPS (1.184).
Granderson hit lead off in his five starts, a role he thrived in during the 2015 season. Granderson hit .476/.556/1.095 in those five games at the top of the lineup and collected multi-hits in four of the five starts.
He homered in back-to-back games in the third and final games of the Dodgers series and, according to MMO’s own Michael Mayer, Granderson became just the second left-handed batter in the modern era to hit lead off home runs in consecutive games off lefty pitchers.
With the Mets tied 1-1 heading into the eighth inning against the Giants on Saturday, Granderson led off the inning with his third triple of the season.
With Sandy Alderson indicating that the Mets need to be realistic with their chances of making the postseason, it appears that the 36-year-old veteran is a good bet to be traded before the deadline.
Granderson has been the consummate professional in his tenure with the Mets and has provided steady leadership while always being an easy player to root for.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK: JACOB deGROM
Jacob deGrom earns MMO’s Pitcher of the Week after once again stepping up and filling the role of ace starting pitcher.
The 29-year-old right-hander took to the mound at AT&T Park, where he had previously posted an ERA of 5.54 and a WHIP of 1.308 in two career starts.
This time, deGrom cruised through eight innings of one run ball, allowing just four hits, one walk, and seven punch outs on 101 pitches. It was deGrom’s third straight win and third straight start of going at least eight innings.
DeGrom retired the first seven batters he faced in order, but the lone hiccup came in the bottom of the seventh when Brandon Belt smacked a solo shot to center to tie the game up at one.
With the Mets regaining the lead in the eighth with two runs, deGrom went back out for the bottom half of the inning and cruised through a seven pitch clean inning to end his day.
In total, deGrom had four 1-2-3 innings in the game.
With seven strikeouts in his latest outing, deGrom becomes just the 14th Mets pitcher to reach 600 strikeouts with the club, and is now two shy of tying Johan Santana for 13th most in Mets history (607).
Prior to his last three starts, deGrom had struggled in his outings against the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers, lasting just four innings in both and a posting an unsightly 16.88 ERA, while nearly walking as many batters as he struck out (six walks to eight strikeouts).
Frustrated with his lack of success and command, deGrom reached out to Hall-of-Fame pitcher John Smoltz and talked with the former Braves right-hander about throwing two light side sessions in between starts.
“I had a good conversation with John Smoltz about it,” deGrom said. “He said he threw two sides for 10 years. You get on the mound more and you are more familiar with your delivery.”
Since June 12, the date of his complete game against the Cubs, deGrom leads all starting pitchers in innings pitched (25), third best wOBA (.189), and fifth best batting average against (.141).