This was going to be a positive article. A piece all about the Mets entering the new month with good vibes, their most wins ever upon waking up on Mayday. I had it all mapped out. It was going to be comparisons of hot starts past, about how this 2018 team’s winning percentage as of April 30 ranked fourth all-time for the franchise and how well that would bode for the year with the past as a model. It would be about how the 1986 juggernaut finished April at 13-3, how its 1988 little brother started 15-6 and how the doomed seasons of 1985 and 2006 each saw a .667 winning percentage at dawn on May 1. There was going to be an interesting side note about how the 1969 team started slowly, 9-11, and how, late in May, they put together their longest losing streak – five games, ending on May 27 – immediately followed by a franchise-record 11-game winning streak – beginning on May 28. It was going to be that kind of article.
Well, now we fans are calling “Mayday!” for an entirely different reason. For all the 17-11 hoopla – remember, folks, at one point, they were 11-1: do the math – the season is getting out of hand rapidly. First of all they’ve lost four of their last five series, starting with the bullpen torpedoing Jacob deGrom’s gem on April 16 – blowing a 6-1 in the eighth. To say they haven’t played well for the last three weeks is to give short shrift to understatement. There have been defensive lapses, a bushel of opposition seeing-eye hits that produce RBIs, poor pitching by any starter not named deGrom or Noah Syndergaard — and he hasn’t exactly been lights out, himself, either . The clutch hitting and plain luck of early-April has disappeared. To wit: the game on May 1, when Jose Reyes flew out to left field with Braves super-rookie Ronald Acuna stumbling, twisting and turning before making the catch on the warning track, ending the game and leaving the tying run on second. If that had happened on April 15 or earlier, the Mets tie the game there. Rookie manager Mickey Callaway – calm, fresh and innovative in good times – has been reduced to shaking his head and hoping for the best. That’s just on the field. Off it, we’ve seen Matt Harvey’s career disintegrate in a cloud of acrimony, recrimination and plain bad pitching right before our eyes. Clubhouse avatar Todd Frazier has started griping about the umpires, a loser’s lament, if ever there was one.
And now deGrom is hurt.
He hyper extended his right elbow – elbow, on his pitching arm, yet! – swinging the bat in the third inning. No injury is what you would call “good,” but this one is the worst. deGrom has been the Mets’ most reliable starter. Mets’ beat writer Tim Britton, of the Athletic, calls him “money in the banana stand.” He had Tommy John surgery as a minor-leaguer in 2010 and had nerve “re-assignment” surgery two years ago, so any affliction in his right elbow is going to raise alarms, any missed start a cause for despair. Add in the fact that he’s been the Mets’ most consistent starter, looked on as the ace of this team, despite Syndergaard’s gaudy K numbers and raucous Twitter presence. He extended his scoreless string to 18 1/3 innings before leaving after the fourth. He’s the calming presence on a pitching staff otherwise in turmoil, the stopper this team needs. Suffice to say, at this fragile point of the season, deGrom is the player the Mets could least afford to lose.
And now they’ve lost him.
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