Did you expect this to be easy? Really, Mets fans, you should know better.
An 11-1 start wasn't going to turn into an Eastern division route. Upstart teams, like the Braves -- who completed a three-game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field on Thursday -- and the Phillies were going to challenge the status quo. And the Nationals, now back at the .500 mark, weren't going to pack their bags and go home after three bad weeks.
No, earning a playoff berth isn't as simple as two hot weeks and praying for fall. One streak a season does not make. And now, the Mets, losers of 11 of their last 17 games, are going to need to right the ship in a hurry.
There's a reason baseball teams go crazy when they clinch a division crown. For even the best clubs in the history of this game, a 162-game slate is a grind. Every team is going to go through its rough patches, and that's fine. As long as the body of work is a net positive, it should mean the coveted "meaningful games in September."
But with the Mets' torrid start a distant memory, there's a sense of dread in the warm, Flushing air. A team with playoff aspirations can't afford to no-show a series at home against a divisional opponent. The offense, whose pictures should be plastered on milk cartons across the Tri-State area, has gone MIA. After Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, the starting rotation is a sheer and utter crapshoot. And Matt Harvey's performance out of the bullpen on Thursday should illustrate all anyone needs to know about how close Jason Vargas -- owner of a 16.67 ERA -- is to losing his rotation spot.
It's not good, but the only way it's going to get better is for the Mets themselves to craft the tourniquet to stop the bleeding. All the "character" guys they imported in the offseason, all the veterans who have weathered storms in their various stops around the league, this is what they're here for.
I subscribe to the old baseball adage, "You're never as good as look as you're winning, and never as bad as you look when you're losing. The truth is somewhere in between." Right now, the Mets are trying to figure out just what that middle ground is. With a disastrous series squarely in their rear view, their three-game set against the Rockies will be very telling. Are they capable of weathering the storm? Or was April's success simply an aberration?
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