â†µThe Mets have one game left in the month of April, as New York travels down the turnpike to face the Phillies in a three-game set starting on Friday. So, if the Phils manage to win on Friday night, they would pass the Mets to reclaim first place in the National League East. If the Mets continue their winning ways, they'll enter the month of May with a 1.5 game lead on the division which, if you pardon the pun, seems rather amazin'. â†µâ†µ
â†µSo how are the Mets doing this? Pitching, defense and timely hitting, of course. The Mets are just 14th in the league in runs scored with 96 in 22 games, and their .240 team batting average is 26th in the league. The pitching staff, however, boasts a 3.06 team ERA, which is third-best in the majors. And while their on base percentage against is 18th in the league (.338), their slugging percentage against is just .354, good for third best. That means, rather simply, that they are letting guys get on base, but haven't been giving up many extra base hits that really hurt them. Only eight teams have allowed fewer total bases this season, which could be somewhat attributable to the fact that they lead the league in walks per nine innings (4.88). Having said that, giving up all those free passes clearly hasn’t hurt them in the win column lately. â†µâ†µ
â†µAnd that's what it comes down to for the Mets. They're winning games, particularly their home games. New York is 9-1 in its last 10 games, including victories series wins, and two sweeps, over the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers. People may not expect the Mets to be contenders late in the season – Baseball Prospectus projects 76 wins and a last-place finish in the NL East – but right now they are beating those teams expected to contend. The Phillies, on the other hand, have benefited from series wins over the Nationals, twice, the Braves and Astros. â†µâ†µ
â†µNow, to be fair, it's very early in the season. This same post could be written about the Padres as well. So a lot of things need to go the Mets way before people will start to consider them legit contenders. For instance, they need to win some games on the road, as they're just 2-4 away from Citi Field this season. No team has played fewer road games – and thus, more games at home – than the Mets. â†µBut give them this, they've got moxy: â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥"Right now, every time we take the field, we're sure we're going to score runs, we're going to hit, our pitching's going to shut them down," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "When you do that, it's a good feeling." â†µâ†µAnd what, pray tell, sparked this turnaround for the Mets, who were 2-4 to start the season and facing fans boycotting the product if things continued to be that bad? According to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, it's all because of Ike Davis. â†µ
â†µâ‡¥“You know what the difference is this year?” one Met said about the team. “We have more baseball players. We’re more competitive as a team.” â†µâ‡¥He then pointed over to Ike Davis’ locker. â†µâ‡¥In only [ten] games, Davis has become the face of the Mets. It’s too early to make such a bold statement, but I’m going to make it anyway. Davis could be to the Mets what Don Mattingly was to the Yankees. â†µâ†µTo be fair, the comparison to Mattingly was less inflammatory if you read the whole column, where Kernan talks to the Dodgers hitting coach about Davis. But still, the kid has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to be – after just a handful of games – compared to Donny Baseball, especially considering this run of wins has coincided with his debut. â†µ
â†µBut it's not just Davis. It is the pitching and the defense and the timely hitting. And it is the fact that they've played so many games at home. But whatever it…is…the fact remains that the Mets are in first place as April comes to a close. And that really is amazing. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.