Two straight years of rallying in the second half has taught the Mets the season is not necessarily over, even when it appears that way.
But beyond blind optimism, you would be hard-pressed to find an indicator a third straight Houdini act is possible for this group.
When the second half commences Friday at Citi Field, the Mets will sit eight games below .500, some 10 ½ games behind their opponent, the Rockies, for the NL’s second wild-card berth, with the big horses that might fuel a turnaround — Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia — still nowhere in sight.
On top of that, the Mets are sellers heading toward the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, meaning the kind of deals that resurrected the team in 2015 (think Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson) aren’t about to occur now.
But the Mets, who arrived at the All-Star break with five losses in six games, insist there is no reason to wave a white flag.
“I don’t see any quit on our ballclub,” Jose Reyes said. “Everybody seems like they still have the attitude we can make it. But it has to start right out of the gate in the second half if we want to go to the playoffs again. It’s going to be hard work for us, but we still believe in what we can do.”
The Mets went 27-13 over the final six weeks last season to finish with 87 victories and clinch a wild-card spot. To reach the same victory total this season, the Mets need a 48-28 (.631) finish, a goal that seems unrealistic in the team’s present state.
Start with a pitching staff that posted a 4.94 ERA in the first half, which ranked 28th in the major leagues, and a lineup that has underperformed lately, with Cespedes (.133, no homers over his past 11 games) among the primary culprits.
But the Mets also know that in a strange NL race, a surge to .500 might be enough to place them into contention. As it stands, the Rockies are the only team with a winning record in the race for the second wild-card berth.
“Teams have to continue to play well, and if we get out of the gate pretty hot, I think we’ve got a pretty good shot,” Lucas Duda said. “I don’t think we should count ourselves out, I don’t think our fan base should. I think once we get all our pieces back we should have a good shot.”
But the biggest pieces, Syndergaard and Familia, are several weeks away from a potential return. Syndergaard, who is recovering from a torn lat that has kept him sidelined since April, may begin throwing later this month. Familia, recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder, began a throwing program in Port St. Lucie this week, but will need significant time to build up arm strength.
The Mets played much of the first half without Cespedes, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo in addition to Syndergaard and Familia. Other casualties included Matt Harvey, Neil Walker and Juan Lagares.
“If we start worrying about the fact we have a lot of injuries, [a comeback] is not going to happen,” Reyes said. “We have to believe in the people that are here.
“A lot of stuff happened to our ballclub, and I don’t want to put an excuse on it. But we still have a lot of chances in the second half. We still have plenty of baseball left.”
1. Sweep Colorado: The Rockies will arrive at Citi Field on Friday leading the Mets by 10 ½ games for the second wild card. If the Mets want to make a dent, here is their chance — the teams also play three games next month at Coors Field.
2. Promote the kids: If an energy boost is needed, as manager Terry Collins has suggested, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith might be the answer from Triple-A Las Vegas. Both would at least improve the Mets defensively.
3. Yo, Cespedes: The Mets need their top offensive player to start carrying this lineup. Yoenis Cespedes’ .133 batting average with no homers over his past 11 games isn’t going to cut it.