If you ask for my television leanings, I’d probably refer you to one of my favorite sitcoms (Seinfeld, Parks and Rec, Community, Arrested Development, The Good Place) or perhaps a high-concept drama like Breaking Bad. But to me, soap operas are off-limits—except for one. I’ll always tune into the Mets, the General Hospital of Major League Baseball franchises.
As far as catastrophes go, the Mets are definitely one of the more entertaining ones. And you thought the Yankees were the most injured team in New York. Well they still are, but their lead is shrinking. The Mets have endured an almost unprecedented rash of injuries in the past week. Their recent casualties include wily veteran Robinson Cano (strained quad), jack-of-all-trades Jeff McNeil (strained hamstring), tater-mashing outfielder Michael Conforto (concussion) and one of the greatest ballplayers to ever come out of Wyoming—not that it’s a long list—Brandon Nimmo (strained neck).
And that’s not even the worst of it. Superstar slugger Yoenis Cespedes, already lagging behind in his recovery from last year’s double-heel operation, broke his ankle in a ranch (his home, not the salad dressing) mishap earlier this week, resulting in season-ending surgery. I could throw in the fact that Jed Lowrie suffered a new injury (it was to his hamstring) on top of his old one (his knee) during a recent rehab stint, but that would just be rubbing salt into the wound. The fact is, the Mets are about as banged up as they come, which is not a great thing to be in late May.
But amidst all that wreckage is a silver lining. The Mets, or what’s left of them, are riding a four-game winning streak. Don’t ask me how or why, but it’s true. Even with an outfield fashioned from recycled parts and a bullpen held together by spare duct tape Mickey Callaway found in his glove compartment, New York—warts and all—is thriving. Not to take anything away from the Mets, who are playing good ball despite a Swiss-cheese roster comprised of also-rans and future bar trivia answers like Rajai Davis and Carlos Gomez, but it definitely hasn’t hurt that their last four games have come against a reeling Nationals team teetering on the brink of destruction.
Take Thursday, for instance. After hurling a ho-hum seven innings of three-run ball, ace Stephen Strasburg passed the baton to setup man Wander Suero while tasking him to protect a 4-3 lead in the eighth. Still haunted by the ghosts of Wednesday’s late-inning collapse—if you missed it, Sean Doolittle squandered Max Scherzer’s latest gem by allowing a bases-clearing double to Juan Lagares, followed shortly after by a three-run shot courtesy of Rajai Davis—Suero handed an intentional pass to Wilson Ramos, sending Carlos Gomez to the dish with two on and two out. A former All-Star now resigned to playing out his latter years in obscurity, Gomez had been toiling away in the minors (specifically Triple-A Syracuse) before his call-up late last week. Perhaps as a show of solidarity toward his struggling teammates, Suero grooved a fastball to Gomez, who deposited the right-hander’s 95-mph gift into the center-field bleachers. CarGo’s go-ahead bomb staked the Mets to a 6-4 advantage, the same margin they would eventually win by.
Now that is the stuff of miracles. Gomez—who the Mets offered a big-league life raft only after Conforto concussed himself in an outfield collision—homering to wrap up a four-game sweep, mere hours after Davis’ Uber ride heard round the world? What’s next … a Tim Tebow walk-off? Between CarGo’s star turn—and boy did he ham it up strutting around the bases—and the heroics we’ve witnessed in the Bronx this year, New York teams seem to play their best when the chips are down.
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As for the Nats, well this isn’t the finest chapter in their history. We figured Washington would take a step back this year after losing two of its top sluggers (Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy) to free agency, but no one had any idea they’d be floundering on the ocean floor with other cellar-dwelling clubs like the Marlins and Orioles. Even with Harper off the books, the Nats still boast the majors’ sixth-highest payroll at $164 million and change. Injuries have been at the forefront of Washington’s struggles—Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman have all spent time on the injured list. But the Nationals’ true Achilles’ heel is their flaming wreck of a bullpen, which the Mets and their merry band of misfits have done a good job exposing the past two days.
Suero’s implosion Thursday raised Washington’s bullpen ERA to a hideous 7.02, miles worse than the next-worst club at 6.04 (that figure belongs to the beltway’s other struggling franchise, the similarly destitute Baltimore Orioles). The spiraling Nats need Craig Kimbrel in the worst way but at 12 games under .500 and 10 back of the first-place Phillies in the National League East, the addition of a high-octane arm like Kimbrel might not be enough. Judging by Dave Martinez’s latest outburst—the Nats skipper lost it Thursday when home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman rung up Howie Kendrick on a check swing—Washington is a team at the end of its rope.
The Mets aren’t in much better shape than Washington—even after stringing together four straight wins, they’re still a game under .500. The hot streak may have bought him some time, but when it comes right down to it, Callaway’s seat is probably just as hot as Martinez's in D.C. But that’s what makes the Mets such a compelling watch. One day it’s Cespedes taking a spill, the next it’s a guy running around with one shoe. All I know is I can’t wait for the next episode.
AL Quick Hits: George Springer remained a spectator Thursday versus the White Sox, but took part in pre-game batting practice and could return for Friday’s series opener against Boston. Even after sitting out the last four games with back stiffness, the former World Series MVP still leads the American League in both home runs (17) and RBI (42). … Lucas Giolito stymied the Astros in a dominating effort Thursday night, notching nine strikeouts over nine shutout frames as the White Sox surged to a 4-0 victory. The right-hander has been unstoppable over his last four contests, winning all four while spinning a stellar 0.64 ERA. … Cavan Biggio, son of Astros legend and Hall of Fame second baseman Craig Biggio, will make his much-anticipated big-league debut this weekend when the Blue Jays host the Padres for a three-game set at Rogers Centre. Rated as Toronto’s No. 9 prospect according to MLB.com, Biggio has impressed by hitting .307 with six bombs, 26 RBI and five steals over 42 contests for Triple-A Buffalo this season. … J.D. Martinez rode the pine again Thursday as Boston bludgeoned Toronto in an 8-2 rout. Back soreness has kept the Red Sox slugger out since Sunday. He’s also been battling an illness. … CC Sabathia is headed back to the injured list with left knee inflammation. This is already the left-hander’s second stint on the IL after missing time with a heart condition earlier this spring. … It only took one plate appearance for Gleyber Torres to make his presence felt Thursday at Baltimore. The shortstop walked in a pinch-hitting appearance and later scored the go-ahead run as the Yankees held on for a 6-5 victory on getaway day. Torres has wreaked havoc on the O’s all season, batting a relentless .465 with 10 homers, 13 RBI and 16 runs scored against New York’s division foe. … Corey Kluber had his cast removed Thursday and has already resumed cardio work including sprinting and pedaling on the stationary bike. The two-time Cy Young winner will have his broken arm reevaluated in two weeks. … Indians rookie Oscar Mercado was lifted with a bruised hip in Thursday’s loss to Tampa Bay. He suffered the injury in an outfield collision with teammate Leonys Martin on a Kevin Kiermaier liner that went for an inside-the-park home run. The former Cardinals farmhand has contributed a .261 average across 23 at-bats since his call-up earlier this month. … Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz landed on the injured list Thursday. A left-hand contusion has sidelined him since Sunday. … Thursday marked the latest in a long line of Matt Harvey meltdowns as the Halos right-hander was touched up for eight runs on seven hits including four home runs in just 2 2/3 innings in an ugly loss to the Twins. The Dark Knight’s ERA now sits at a horrifying 7.50, though manager Brad Ausmus insisted Harvey’s rotation spot is not in jeopardy. … Max Kepler, who slugged one of Minnesota’s club-record eight homers in Thursday’s win, exited in the ninth inning after crashing into the center-field wall. Luckily, he escaped with only a bruised knee. Consider him day-to-day. … The Lonely Island, the comedy trio fronted by SNL alum Andy Samberg, just released a “visual poem” on Netflix celebrating the Bash Brothers era of Oakland A’s baseball in the late ‘80s. If irreverent humor and Walt Weiss references are your comedy sweet spot, the 30-minute fever dream is a must-watch.
NL Quick Hits: Charlie Blackmon checked out early Thursday, departing with a right calf injury in Colorado’s 14-6 loss to Pittsburgh. The three-time All-Star, who is hitting an even .300 for the year, stayed in after fouling a ball off his calf but aggravated his injury playing the outfield, prompting his removal. … Josh Bell continued his torrid May with another monster showing on Thursday, finishing a triple shy of the cycle in a win over the Rockies. The reigning NL Player of the Week has gone off this month, hitting an astonishing .405 with ten homers and 26 RBI over 79 May at-bats. … Score one for Derek Jeter, CEO of baseball’s hottest team, the Miami Marlins. The Fish upped their winning streak to six on the strength of Garrett Cooper’s go-ahead grand slam in Thursday’s come-from-behind victory over Detroit. While the Marlins are playing their best ball of the year, the slumping Tigers are heading in the wrong direction. Opponents have outscored them by an embarrassing 68-21 margin during the team’s nine-game losing skid with all nine defeats coming at home. … The prospect parade will continue for the Padres this weekend when Josh Naylor debuts against the Blue Jays in his native Canada. The 2015 first-rounder earned his call-up by slashing .299/.378/.538 with 10 homers and 35 RBI across 45 appearances for Triple-A El Paso. He’s already the ninth Padre to reach the big leagues this year.