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It seems like the baseball world is just waiting for the Mets to finally fly its white flag. It is clear that at 19 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and more than 10 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card, there is no real shot at making the postseason. Nonetheless, the Mets have played extremely well on the road, keeping them within .500 through 117 games into the season.
The tide may have finally turned in recent days. The Mets fell twice to the last-place Padres at home and will now have to take on the first place Diamondbacks on the road this weekend.
It’s also the way that the Mets have fallen that hurts the most. On Wednesday, a well-pitched game by Jon Niese was wasted thanks in large part to shoddy defensive by 21-year-old shortstop Ruben Tejada. The only reason Tejada was even in the field was the most recent hamstring injury to star shortstop Jose Reyes.
One positive that Mets fans can focus on is the continued success of rookie Lucas Duda. The 6’4, 254 lbs. slugger drove in four RBI in the four-game series with seven hits. Though his season statistics are solid with three home runs, three triples, 12 doubles, and a .279 average through 62 games, his teammate Justin Turner tells us that we have not seen anything yet. “When he gets into a hot streak, the ball just sails over the fence in bunches,” said Turner, who played with Duda in the Minor Leagues.
Despite the fun name and slugger’s role, Duda is soft-spoken and modest, though his confidence shines through, “It will come.” he says. “The more comfortable I get the better I’ll perform.” Duda has good reason to be confident. He is hitting .348 since the All-Star break with three home runs and a .427 OBP.
While Duda is playing first base in place of the injured Ike Davis, his future home for the Mets will likely be in the outfield. After all, the Mets have no shortage of first basemen with both Davis and Daniel Murphy both posting big numbers before each landed on the DL with season-ending injuries.
As usual, it is anything but easy to be a Mets fan. However, there is some good news as the season crawls to an end. Both Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda look like keepers, though finding a position for each will be a challenge. Jose Reyes seems happy to be with the Mets and could end up extending this off-season in a long-term deal. Jason Bay has progressed a bit from his early struggles, and even Justin Turner may be a short-term fix at second base.
The Mets still have plenty of issues to sort out. They could use another big arm in the rotation even while assuming Johan Santana returns as a front of the rotation hurler. Bobby Parnell does not look like a closer. Then there is the gaping hole in centerfield that Angel Pagan has not been able to fill this season.
For those who prefer the glass half full, consider that the Mets have lost their first baseman and their backup first baseman to injuries. David Wright and Jose Reyes have both spent weeks on the disabled list. Johan Santana has not thrown a single pitch for the Mets this season. Jason Bay and Angel Pagan are having down seasons. The team traded away its best all-around hitter and its ace closer, and yet they sit just one game under .500. In other words, for Mets fans there is just enough positive to still believe.