The sky isn’t quite falling on the Mets, but it definitely feels a little lower than it was in July or August.
On Wednesday, after getting swept by the Cubs, manager Buck Showalter said that he hopes his players are pressing, because it’s human nature to want to fix a less-than-favorable situation. Even one of the team’s best players acknowledged that the Mets are pushing themselves to the brink and having a tough time breaking through.
“We’re in a situation where we all want to get it done,” Francisco Lindor said on Wednesday. “We want to get it done desperately, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get it done. We just aren’t coming through. I come up with people on base, I hit into a double play. I come up with people on base, I strike out. I come up with people on base, I get one single. The consistency that was there earlier in the year, I’m not seeing it in the last couple of days.”
For the last 15 days, the Mets have stood in a strange place. One foot is comfortably in the postseason, keeping an air of lightness in the clubhouse. The other foot, though, is being gnawed at by the Braves and the very apparent fact that the team is playing terribly, especially on offense.
“The most beautiful thing that’s happening is that we’re all sticking together,” Lindor said. “We’re all pushing each other, motivating each other, and we’re not pointing fingers.”
The shortstop is trying to play mediator between his emotions and those of his teammates. Everyone, to some degree, gets pissed off about losing. But again, the anger level is diminished by the 89 wins they’ve already tucked away, which could very well be enough for a wild card spot even if they lose every single game the rest of the way. That’s obviously not part of the plan, but it’s let the recent losing get easily flushed away.
“I have my days where I dwell a little bit longer than I normally do, but the guys pick me up, and vice versa,” Lindor explained. “There’s some guys that dwell a little bit longer and I go up and say, ‘It’s OK. Let’s turn the page. Tomorrow’s another day. We’ll come back, we’ll do it together and we’ll win.’ If we don’t win, we continue to move forward.”
Lindor did confess that if he’s being honest, it is “kind of hard” to turn that page this late in the season. While they won’t say it, the Mets are ready to turn the page straight into the postseason and fast forward through the remaining regular season games. The Braves nipping at their heels has made that impossible, though, and has forced the Mets to straddle the line between remaining cool and trying to keep a high level of intensity.
“You can want it more than anybody on the field,” Lindor said. “But if you don’t stay within yourself, it’s going to be a little harder to get it done. My game is to hit the ball gap-to-gap, not to try and hit home runs. If they go out, great. Staying within myself is finding a good pitch and driving it back up the middle.”
Baseball famously does not care what you’re trying to do. Showalter has said upwards of 200 times this year that if you want to make the baseball gods laugh, you should tell them your plans. For hitters, trying too hard is often the worst approach.
“There are times when I close my eyes, I hit the ball and it’s a base hit,” Lindor said kiddingly.
None of that luck showed up in the recent Cubs series, in which the Mets went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position. They scored just three times in the seventh inning or later, a bit of an embarrassment considering the Cubs sent four veteran relievers to other teams at the trade deadline. They’re tired of hearing about it, but the truth is, the Mets have been punked all month by players far below their skill level.
“It was a great opportunity, but at the end of the day they’re big league teams,” said Lindor, who tipped his proverbial hat to the Cubs for flat out playing better than the Mets. “Somebody said to me earlier in my career, ‘The other pitchers, they gotta eat too. They drive nice cars. They have nice houses.’ It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side, we have to respect our opponent.”
Starting on Thursday, the Mets have 18 games left before the playoffs, 12 of which are against teams that have already been eliminated from postseason contention. The key to getting over this final hump, which is the first big one Mets have encountered all year, has been in their pocket the whole time.
“It’s about shortening the bad times and stretching out the good times,” Showalter said. “I remember every great thing these guys have done this year and will do again. The last thing they need is somebody to be looking at them like you’ve forgotten what they’re capable of.”
“With the amount of professional players that we have here, we pick each other up,” Lindor repeated. “We move forward.”