06/25/2012 – Mets fans can be excused for wondering when the bottom will fall out on what has so far been a 2012 season that has defied expectations. Currently sitting in second place in the very deep National League East, and a top the Wild Card race, the Mets have exceeded all predictions on what was supposed to another lost season in Flushing.
So when, on July 1st, the Mets were looking at a 22 game stretch that included games against the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, and Cincinnati Reds, Met fans could be forgiven for thinking this would be the stretch to end their dreams of having a competitive season.
But a funny thing happened on the way to their demise. The Mets have gone 11-11 during that 22 game stretch and remain a team in the hunt. With the second half looming large, this last week of June is very likely to show whether or not this team is for real, or a fraud.
Their opponents for this final week of June? Well, they have 3 games against the very beatable Chicago Cubs, and then a test against a possible playoff team in the Los Angeles Dodgers, all 7 games on the road.
Why is this week so important? Because it serves as a transition for a month of July that will see the Mets facing NL East opponents (12 out of 25 games to be exact) and fellow Wild Card competitors (San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Arizona Diamondbacks). We have seen it happen many times, where a team looks ahead only to be crushed in the present.
The Mets absolutely must take at least 2 out of 3 from the Cubs, and take at least a split of their 4 games against the Dodgers before gearing up for the second half of the season. Anything less than that, and they may find themselves slipping out of contention.
On a team that has battled many injuries (Ruben Tejada, Jason Bay, Mike Pelfrey, Josh Thole, Andres Torres, ET AL…) and has struggled through poor bullpen performances the Mets are facing a challenge on both fronts with the recent placement of Frank Francisco on the 15-day disabled list. On its face, an injury to Francisco may not seem like a big deal, but now the rest of the bullpen has to placed into higher leverage situations and there is no reason to believe their performance will match that demand.
Can the Mets overcome that adversity to maintain their push? It isn’t a stretch to believe that these next 7 games will give us that answer.