The Mets could use a little ‘magic sprinkle dust’ as second half gets underway – The Denver Post


When he was named Mets’ manager in December, the always-insightful Buck Showalter declared that “there’s no magic sprinkle dust,” and “it’s about winning baseball games.”

His team’s next five games — three with the San Diego Padres beginning on Friday night, then a two-game mixer with the Yankees — are the exact types of games that the Mets hired Showalter to win. At times, the Mets’ 58-35 start has felt like the product of Showalter’s magic sprinkle dust, as well as the Mets simply having a better roster than they did last year. The next three months are all about proving that the first half was no mirage, though, and their first five straight out of the gate will provide an idea of how well-equipped this team is to win baseball games against the league’s best.

San Diego (52-42, currently in possession of the second Wild Card spot) hopes to find itself in the same postseason that will define the Mets’ year. After the All-Star break brought its annual reset, the Padres are sure to come out purposeful and regenerated. With the Mets in the position they’re in — first place in the National League East, on the short list of best teams in the NL — every team is going to throw their best punch at them. With the exception of a few pushovers (the Mets still have several more obligations with the Nationals, and the final three might not include Juan Soto), most of the teams remaining on the schedule will either have something to play for or will employ a few guys who are more than capable spoilers.

This stretch of the season has sunk the Mets many times before. They went into the All-Star break last season with a four-game lead in the division and emerged from it by posting a 9-15 record, dropping them into second place and starting the landslide that precipitated this regime change. A similar stretch this year could also have wildly damaging effects, as the National League houses more legitimate title contenders than the American League, and the Mets have to play many of those teams over the next 30 days.

Get ready for a lot of Braves and Phillies, whom the Mets play 16 times in the month of August alone, including 11 in a row with Atlanta and Philadelphia immediately followed by two road games at Yankee Stadium. Taking care of the miserable Nationals, Reds — and in September, the Cubs and Athletics — can puff up the Mets’ record, but beating the good teams that want to take something from them is the real litmus test.

What happens if Pete Alonso continuously makes empty waves at Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove’s sliders, costing the Mets RBI opportunities and laying the groundwork for other pitchers to fool the hefty hitter? Manny Machado, arguably the best player in the NL this season, is liable to cover the Mets’ pitching staff in lava. After the Padres’ series, should the Mets find themselves trailing in the late innings, will they be able to stage a rally against Wandy Peralta, Michael King, Clay Holmes and the rest of the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen? Conversely, will Adam Ottavino and Edwin Diaz hold up against Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton?

This is all hypothetical, but we may soon have answers to these questions depending on how the next week unfolds at Citi Field. In that same introductory press conference where Showalter swore he didn’t have any hocus pocus dust, he also made sure everyone understood how a baseball season works.

“There’s ebbs and flows to the season,” Showalter reminded. “But the consistency of how we go about our business and the people we surround ourselves with and how we treat each other is going to be special.”

So far, so good. Things have been undeniably special, both as Showalter presses every correct button and makes every reporter chuckle, but also as his team plays one of the best brands of baseball in the world. Now managing his fifth season in the Big Apple (Showalter steered the Yankees from 1992-95), the skipper also understands how quickly this town can turn on a team. A 1-4 faceplant against the Padres and Yankees, especially if paired with a Braves winning streak, ratchets up the intensity right after his All-Star vacation.

As such, expect the atmosphere for this homestand in Flushing to be borderline rabid. No team has ever gotten better by bullying teams at the bottom; true improvement comes from slaying the other bullies. The Mets know this, the Padres know this, and the Yankees absolutely know this.

Strap in, maybe keep some heart medication on deck, and get ready to find out what these marvelous Mets are really made of.



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