1. Mets Throw Down the Gauntlet
The Mets went into Washington, and they swept a Nationals team who many have predicted could go to the World Series. What really made this sweep impressive was the Mets took everything the Nationals had, and they kept responding.
In each game this weekend, New York pulled off come from behind victories.
They Mets responded each time to the deficit, and it was a different player in each game. One day, it was a Michael Conforto homer, and the day next it was Todd Frazier. Really, every single player in that Mets dugout contributed to this sweep. That makes the Mets extremely difficult to beat — not just in this series but over the course of a 162 game schedule.
2. Mets Great Bullpen
One of the more unheralded reasons why the 2015 Mets beat the Nationals was the difference in the bullpens. Over that final two month stretch, the Mets came back and beat up on a poor Nationals bullpen while the Mets bullpen, led by Jeurys Familia, yielded nothing.
Well, the Mets are once again beating up on the Nationals bullpen, and Familia is great once again.
So far, Familia has made five appearances pitching six innings and saving four games. He has yet to allow a run, and he’s leading the majors in saves. After a completely lost 2017 season with suspension and injury, he’s back to being an elite closer.
But it’s not just him.
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have become revelations in the bullpen. Certainly, one of the highlights of the weekend was Lugo throwing three scoreless innings while escaping out of a bases loaded jam to give the Mets a chance to win and for Jacob Rhame to record his first Major League save.
This deep and formidable bullpen is second in the majors with a 1.31 ERA, and they have limited opposing batters to a Major League best .160 batting average. That’s a big reason why they led the majors in saves.
3. Conforto Returned
On the first day he was eligible to come off the disabled list, Michael Conforto was in the lineup in his familiar lead off spot. One of the reasons he was in the lineup was because Conforto told Mickey Callaway he wanted Stephen Strasburg.
In the fifth inning, Conforto got him hitting an opposite field go-ahead two run homer.
With that homer, he both assuaged any fears he returned too soon, and he also showed why the Mets outfield is one of the deepest in all of baseball.
1. The Ebbs and Flows of a Big League Manager
When the Mets are 7-1, and the team just swept the Nationals any and all things included in “3 Down” are going to appear nitpicky, and with Callaway having the golden touch so far, it would seem far too premature to criticize him in any way. That said, he has made some decisions which may need adjustment as the season goes on.
- Allowing Paul Sewald to throw 55 pitches
- Starting Jose Reyes two times in a three game stretch over Amed Rosario
- Having Noah Syndergaard pitch the fourth after a 36 pitch third inning
- Batting Asdrubal Cabrera second over Yoenis Cespedes against right-handed pitching
- Using Lugo to close out an 8-2 lead two days after he pitched two innings
- Benching Conforto against a left-handed starting pitcher
- Having a struggling Harvey pitch the fifth
- Riding Familia hard, pitching him six innings in five appearances in the Mets first six games
- Didn’t double switch Blevins into the game in the ninth inning on Sunday
Now, it is way too early for criticism of Callaway. He has the Mets playing their best baseball in quite some time, and he has made decisions which has given the Mets a real chance to win.
Given how he is more analytically and data driven in his approach, there is bound to be a good explanation for all of these decisions.
However, Callaway’s managerial career is all of eight games old, and some of his decisions Sunday almost helped cost the Mets the game. He seems like a great one, but we don’t know for sure yet. That’s why he’ll get a pass on decisions similar to those we would have criticized Collins for making.
2. The Stolen Bases
No one is going to accuse Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki of even having an average arm. However, with the season eight games old, it’s astonishing how the Mets are the only team in baseball who has not thrown out a single base stealer. Overall, the opposition is a perfect 11/11 in stolen base attempts against Mets catchers.
One of the reasons why this is happening is the Mets pitchers still do not do a great job of holding on base runners. On the day the Nationals stole five bases against the Matz/d’Arnaud combination, d’Arnaud did not have a real shot at any of those base stealers.
Certainly, the Mets catchers do need to make some improvements throwing. However, it’s not going to matter much if the base runner is standing next to second base by the time the ball hits the catcher’s mitt.
3. Harper in MVP Form
One of the dangers of the Mets not hiring Kevin Long as their manager was the threat of him doing to the Nationals team what he did to Daniel Murphy. What’s really scary is Long has seemingly taken former MVP Bryce Harper, and he has gotten him to raise his game.
So far this season, Harper his hitting .357/.535/1.000 with six homers and 12 RBI. What’s scary is that even with how good those numbers are, it appears Harper still has another gear in him this season.
With numbers like that, Harper seems primed to win his second MVP Award. If he’s putting up MVP numbers, the Nationals are just that much better, and that is going to make it more difficult for the Mets to win the division.