Harkening back to the days that earned them the nickname “Amazins,” the New York Mets have burst out of the MLB gate with a startling 13-3 record, highlighted by the ongoing 11-game win streak they’ll carry to the Bronx in Friday night’s turf showdown with the New York Yankees.
The begging, and loaded, question is: How are the Mets pulling this off? It’s loaded because anyone who asks the above question may not have known about the talent up and down the Mets lineup or especially in their bullpen and starting rotation. Despite a few additions, this is still largely a Mets squad that finished the 2014 season strong, going 15-9 in the final month even with ace Matt Harvey recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Mets and fifth-year manager Terry Collins have shocked the entire league with their impressive start, while building a solid 4 1/2-game lead in the National League East, and there’s plenty to suggest this early run is no fluke.
For starters, first baseman Lucas Duda looks like the all-around hitter New York thought it was drafting back in 2010. Now in his fifth full season, the former USC star leads the Mets with a .351 batting average and ranks No. 11 in the NL with a .526 slugging percentage. And in part due to his team-best seven doubles, Duda’s the Mets' far and away leader in total bases with 30 after only 16 games.
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, before he was put on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured finger on his throwing hand, was also a godsend the Mets have sorely lacked behind the plate. The third-year starter is well on a pace to surpass his 2014 numbers, hitting .317 with two home runs, 10 RBI and 13 total hits in 11 games.
Even with d’Arnaud out the last three games, the Mets’ infield continues to punish the opposition for the seventh-most runs in the majors. There’s third-year shortstop Wilmer Flores, who’s displaying power well beyond his position with a team-leading three home runs, and second baseman Daniel Murphy’s batting average has been poor early, only .170, but with his four-RBI performance in Thursday’s 6-3 victory over the rival Atlanta Braves the slump may be over.
In the outfield, veteran left fielder Michael Cuddyer and third-year centerfielder Juan Lagares are protecting Duda’s big bat with 15 total RBIs. However Collins is likely asking both to show more patience at the plate, especially Cuddyer, who leads the team with 17 strikeouts.
Nevertheless, the Mets' lineup really hasn’t missed a beat even with perennial All-Star third baseman David Wright placed on the 15-day DL. Wright suffered a strained right hamstring and was placed on the injured list April 15, but the New York Daily News quoted Collins as saying Wright’s on schedule to return in early May.
Clearly the Mets have shown they're capable of putting up runs, but their starting rotation has come out blazing and deserves heaps of credit.
Of the 16 games started this season, the Mets' rotation can account for 12 quality starts, tying New York with the San Diego Padres for most in the majors. Four of those quality starts belong to the ageless Bartolo Colon. The 41-year-old’s posting a 2.77 ERA with 23 strikeouts and has won all four his starts, well after Collins was criticized for starting him over Harvey on Opening Day.
Harvey missed all of last season but so far looks like his old 2013 self. The 26-year-old is tops on the team with 24 strikeouts and also owns a perfect 3-0 record in three starts.
Last season’s NL Rookie of the Year Jacob de Grom continues to progress very well. He’s surrendered only two runs in his three starts, all quality, for a 0.93 ERA. And eight-year starter Jonathon Niese is only three days removed from a four-hit gem against Atlanta, giving up one run over 6 2/3 innings with five strikeouts for his second victory of the year.
But as well as the starting rotation has played, the Mets' bullpen just might be the key to this early start. The platoon of Jerry Blevins, Carlos and Alex Torres, and Buddy Carlyle has amassed 15 holds, setting up closer Jeurys Familia perfectly for his majors-leading 10 saves. Familia had five total saves all of last year.
So far it’s been an incredible early ride for the Mets. And how they parlay this success into the Subway Series starting tonight could build tons of momentum as the season wears on.
Start Time: 7:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: WPIX, YES
Live Stream: Watch here