Claiming to be undistracted by the Matt Harvey circus, the 2015 Mets face their greatest challenge
The Mets dropped two out of three games in Miami over the weekend while the Nationals swept a four-game series against the Braves in Washington.
In the middle of their lost series, the Mets endured an unnecessary distraction from their co-ace, Matt Harvey, his agent, Scott Boras, and a media circus involving the on-going innings limit conversations, during which the pitcher went from being non-committal about pitching beyond his start on Tuesday to assuring the public he will pitch in the playoffs should the Mets qualify.
After Sunday’s loss, David Wright was confident his team was not distracted during their three-game series in Miami.
“Nobody in here is distracted,” Wright said after Sunday’s loss. “Not a person is distracted. Matt’s ready to go. Matt’s ready.”
Wright was seen in the dugout on Sunday talking extensively with Harvey, although the topic of their discussion is unknown.
While Wright realizes this week’s showdown with the Nationals is pivotal, the club’s perspective isn’t different for this series than it is in any other series.
“From here on out, every game is going to be big,” the third baseman said. “[Sunday] was a big game. [Saturday] was a big game. Although it’s an important series, you can’t prepare or do anything differently going into it, because once you start getting too pumped up or too excited for a series, sometimes it gets you off your game.”
The Mets will face Max Scherzer on Monday afternoon, followed by Jordan Zimmermann on Tuesday and Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday. As has been the case all year long against the Nationals, the Mets are expecting to play close and tight games this week.
And Wright knows it’s important the Mets execute at a high level.
“They’re three of the best pitchers in baseball,” Wright said about the Nats’ trio. “I think that anytime you look at a Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, it’s three elite pitchers — not just in the National League, but in baseball. We know runs are going to be at a premium, so being a good situational-hitting team, trying to limit the amount of miscues offensively and defensively, are going to be important.
“But we’re throwing out three pretty good arms, too,” Wright said.
Jon Niese will start for the Mets on Monday, followed by Matt Harvey on Tuesday and Jacob deGrom on Wednesday.
This series against the Nationals was already significant, but it suddenly became that much more important, thanks to the Nationals cutting the deficit by nearly a half this past weekend. There’s a little more pressure on the Mets this week to stave off this late charge from the Nationals, who are winners of five in a row and looking as strong as they have at any point this season.
But this is the merit of the Mets building such a big lead and maintaining it for most of the month of August. Yes, Washington has cut 2 1/2 games off the lead, but they’re still four games behind, and they’ll still be an arms length out even if they win two out of three this week.
Even so, the Mets are charged with not letting that happen. And they’re also charged with putting this silly distraction created by Harvey and his agent aside, winning this series and to head to Atlanta at least five games ahead of Washington.
They’ve shown time and time again all year long a great ability to battle adversity, defy the odds and win games they haven’t been expected to win.
And now that they’re entering their second test against the Nationals and their three best pitchers, they’re up against that task once again in what is now their most significant regular season series since the 2008 season.
Wright is confident this Met team does not resemble those failed teams he was a part of in 2007 and 2008.
“The team is different. Back then, the team was a lot more veteran and we relied heavily on offense,” he said last week at Citi Field. “Now, it’s the opposite, where I think we have a very good offensive team and we can go out and win games offensively occasionally, but we’re going to lean on our pitching very heavily. I’ve been around long enough to know that excites me.”
That pitching has slumped lately, but it’s too good to last too much longer.
But Wright and the rest of the Mets better hope that pitching rises to the occasion once again against Washington, much like it did five weeks ago at Citi Field.
Otherwise, they could be back to square one with the clock ticking on their playoff hopes for 2015.