By Rich Coutinho
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After an impressive 6-4 road trip in which the Mets took a three-game series from two of the hottest teams in baseball, they come home 4.5 games out of a wild card spot.
So, everyone wants to know what the Mets will do at the deadline.
Truthfully, they are leaning towards keeping this team intact if they are sitting in this same spot or better come the trading deadline. The next 23 games that take the Mets into the All-Star break will be the determining factor in establishing next steps for the organization.
Clearly, the Mets are cooking right now when you consider since their 5-13 start, they have gone 29-22, dealing without both Ike Davis and David Wright for most of that time. It stands to reason that the offense will have more sizzle when these two bats return. There will also be two potent bats on the Mets bench, which in the long run will make the team more equipped for late-inning comebacks - at least from an offensive perspective. This morning, the Mets woke up having scored 292 runs - tied with Phils for top in NL East and when Wright and Davis return. I expect that number to spike upwards especially if Jason Bay can somehow find his stroke.
The other factor here is a watered down National League that currently houses the wild card leader at only eight games over .500. That is the Atlanta team that the Mets just took 4-of-6 from by beating both of their top two pitchers, Jair Jurrgens and Tim Hudson twice in a two week period. The Braves are also starting to get some injury problems of their own as both Chipper Jones and Tommy Hanson seem headed to the disabled list or at very least, headed for some down time. The Cardinals, Reds and Diamondbacks, much like the Mets, seem to be streaky teams that have flaws. All of them are still within arms length of the Mets.
So, the next 23 games will decide a lot, and when you consider the first 15 are inter-league games it becomes a crucial stretch for the Mets. More specifically, the first six at home are key because the AL team can not use the DH and quite frankly, the Mets are better than the Angels and A's. They need to not only get to .500 but move as far from it as possible since the next 16 games include three Subway Series games at Citi Field and road games in Texas, Detroit, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. A good goal for the Mets would be to reside at 6 games over .500 at the break, which means they need to go 15-8 in that 23-game stretch. I think that will ensure the fact the Mets are in this wild card race for the long haul and would preclude the team from making any trades that might hurt their chances.
15-8 is certainly a tall order but it seems every time Terry Collins and his team have been challenged this year, they've risen to the moment. And it all starts tonight.
Where will the Mets be at the All-Star break? And what moves are in the works?
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