Early-season crisis puts Mets to test

It’s never a good time for a team to deal with adversity, but that’s part of the deal during a long season.

The Mets are going through it now in the first month of the season. That’s a position they never envisioned this early, but here they are.

Not only are the Mets 8-9 after a 4-3 loss to the Nationals in 11 innings Friday night at Citi Field, but they have many players such as Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring), Asdrubal Cabrera (hamstring) and Travis d’Arnaud (hand) nursing injuries while Lucas Duda (hyperextended elbow) and Wilmer Flores (hospitalized with knee infection) joined David Wright, Seth Lugo and Steven Matz on the disabled list prior to the game Friday. Friday night’s Mets starter Jacob deGrom was scratched with a stiff neck, so Matt Harvey took his place.

Mets manager Terry Collins will be earning his money once again in keeping this team afloat while the Mets snap out of their funk and get guys healthy again.

Friday night summed up what has gone wrong with the Mets lately. They are finding ways to lose rather than getting the big hit and big strikeout to put them in a position to win these close games.

A good example of that was in the seventh inning with the game tied at three. The Mets had the bases loaded with Zack Wheeler at third (he pinched-hit for Harvey and he got a double), Michael Conforto at second and Juan Lagares at first with two outs. The crowd anticipated Jay Bruce would get the big hit that would put the game away. Instead, the Mets slugger lined out and that was that.

Bruce hoped he could have atoned for his inability to get the job done by getting it done in his next at-bat in the 10th inning with the game tied at 3. He hit it hard enough that fans thought it was going to be a home run. It certainly had the distance, but instead, it turned into a long flyout. This would be the last chance he got in this game.

The Mets would find another way to lose in the 11th inning when Jeurys Familia entered the mound after Bryce Harper hit a one-out double and Daniel Murphy was walked. The Mets closer struggled to throw strikes, and he managed to walk light-hitting Anthony Rendon to load the bases. The crowd had no faith in him, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy when he walked Trea Turner with the bases loaded, scoring Harper to give the Nationals a 4-3 lead.

To Familia’s credit, he struck out Chris Heisey and Jose Lobaton to end the inning. But the damage was done, and the crowd booed him when the inning was over. So much for giving him a grace period after missing time for domestic violence suspension.

This stretch has caused consternation with the Mets fans. They are concerned the hitters are focusing on hitting home runs rather than use the field to hit. They groan when the Mets leave the runners stranded after not cashing in with an opportunity to drive the run. There is not much faith in the bullpen, which played a role in the Mets’ funk lately. After the Mets’ 6-2 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday, the Mets relievers were 0-4 with a 7.15 ERA when they lost four of five.

Say one thing about the Metropolitans. They are not panicking after 17 games. They can’t be like the fans. They need to know how to handle the grind of a long season with many more months to go. What they need to do is to find ways to win these close games and get players healthy.

What’s encouraging about the Amazins so far is their starting pitching, which has been as good as advertised. Their starters have been throwing quality starts and giving the team a chance to win.

The starting rotation is the team’s strength, and the Mets figure their hitting will come around as the weather gets warmer during the summer. The bullpen has showed they can get the job done in the last two years, so with their track record, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

The Mets have gone through funks and injuries before, and they made out just fine. When they were struggling to hit two years ago, they found ways to win and they took off when they acquired Cespedes from the Tigers for Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. When the Mets had injuries last year such as losing Matz, Harvey and deGrom for the season, they found a way to step up on the emergence of Lugo and Robert Gsellman, and that was good enough for the Mets to make the playoffs as a wild-card team.

Who knows what’s in store this year? That’s the beauty of a long season, isn’t it? What happens in April may not happen in July or September. Maybe the Mets’ luck run out this year. It’s hard to predict what will happen.

This is the first of many crisis for the Mets this season. How they handle it will determine how this season will go for them this season.

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