ST. LOUIS — Steven Matz was hot. The usually calm and collected lefthander walked off the field at Busch Stadium barking at someone behind him and then slammed his hat on the bench. Jacob deGrom and other teammates who had come over to pat him on the shoulder quickly backed away. Matz threw down his hat and slammed his glove again.
Then he hopped up on top of the bench and sat there staring out at the field.
“I was just frustrated. It was just one of those days where we weren’t executing pitches,” Matz said. “You get frustrated sometimes.”
It was the perfect picture to wrap up the Mets’ first half of the season: frustration, futility and disappointment. The Mets finished a crucial road trip 1-4 before the activity heats up heading into the trade deadline with Sunday’s 6-0 loss to the Cardinals. They go into the All-Star break eight games below .500 at 39-47.
It’s not a pretty picture for the 2017 season.
“Well, pretty much the record speaks for itself,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “No matter if you said, geez, we played without a lot of big pieces. We are not happy with where we are, certainly, so we’ve got to use this time to reassess what we’ve got to do in the second half and hopefully we start getting some of the pieces back.”
With the Mets at this point, it comes down to pitching and Yoenis Cespedes; both the team and its $ 110 million slugger have been severely affected by injuries.
Sunday, Matz got run out in the fifth, the first time in six starts this season he didn’t at least get into the sixth inning. Cespedes ended the first half mired in a 0-for-11 slump. The club’s most dangerous hitter, who was on the disabled list for 37 games this season with a strained left hamstring, went 0-for-3 Sunday and is 5-for- his last 40.
The Mets went down quickly and quietly, suffering just their second shutout of the season.
“We’ve underachieved as a team for sure,” right fielder Jay Bruce said. “Look to do better in the second half.”
And while the Mets left Busch Stadium Sunday looking very much like a team that should be selling off veteran assets like Bruce over the next two weeks, there was still hope of a second half turnaround in the clubhouse.
“If you want to talk about what we saw the last few months, I’ll go back to what we saw in the last 12 months,” Collins said. “We saw a team, last year, that when they were challenged they rose up. So I think it’s in their DNA that they can do it again. We’ll find out.”
It’ll be quite an uphill slog, though.
They are 12 games back of the Nationals in the division and 10 games out of the second National League wild-card spot, but they are holding out hope that they will get back key pieces from the disabled list.
They had no updates on starter Noah Syndergaard (torn right lat) or Matt Harvey (stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder), but are hopeful Jeurys Familia, who had surgery to remove a blood clot from his right shoulder in May, will be back by the end of next month. Neil Walker, in Port St. Lucie for rehab from a partially torn hamstring, said he expects to be back at some point in the week after the break.
The key is keeping Jacob deGrom, who will start the second half Friday night, and Matz, who had been solid until Sunday, on track until they can get some help.
“We have to pitch. For me, it starts with the guys on the mound. We started to get our guys back obviously with Matzy back, Seth (Lugo) back. I don’t have any idea when Harv or Noah are going to be back but we have to get our starting pitching to where they are getting us, like they have been, getting us deep into games and giving us opportunities to win some ballgames,” Collins said. “In order for us to get back in the race, we have to start playing complete baseball. We can’t just ride one or two guys. We have to get the entire lineup swinging the bats.”
Sunday the Mets didn’t get any of that. The final day of the first half was more of the same.