Kevin Long is in his 10th season as a big-league hitting coach. In that decade, he has witnessed just how quickly fortunes can turn.
“I’ve seen all sorts of stuff happen,” said Long, in his second season with the Mets. “As a matter of fact, we got no-hit twice last year and went to the World Series, so explain that? And the Dodgers got no-hit twice and we were playing them in a playoff series. So strange things happen in baseball.”
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That strangeness has manifested itself again, this time with a lingering offensive funk that has turned the Mets into unwilling participants of a stress test. And again, they find themselves forced to simply ride it out.
“We have enough veterans on our team that we’ve been through it, especially since we’ve been through much harder times than we’re going through right now,” cleanup-hitting first baseman Lucas Duda said. “I feel like there’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re just seven or eight games deep. You’ve got to sort of bear with it, as do the fans. We’re in a bit of a funk.”
After a winter spent retro fitting the lineup — highlighted by the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes — the Mets’ bats have yet to emerge from hibernation. They rank at or near the bottom of several major categories.
The Mets are dead last in average (.194), slugging (.250) and OPS (.535). They’re 25th in on-base percentage (.285) despite placing in the upper third of baseball with 30 walks, an indictment of how little they have put the ball in play with success. Perhaps most striking, the Mets’ 20 runs scored through their first eight games place them ahead of only the 0-9 Twins, who have scored 14.
“There’s been some poor days when we just haven’t swung the bat well and then there’s been some days when we’ve hit some balls hard and for whatever reason they’ve been at people or the wind was blowing in that day,” Long said. “I think the main thing we’re talking about here is that it just hasn’t clicked, and it hasn’t clicked on all cylinders.”
The Mets have hit only two home runs, better than only the 1970 team, which managed just one through the season’s first eight games. Their .194 average is the fifth-worst mark in team history. The Mets’ .250 slugging percentage to this point is behind only the hapless 1963 team, which went 0-8 to begin a 111-loss campaign.
But it’s not just a power outage plaguing the Mets. Through eight games, they have yet to plate a run with a sacrifice fly, an indictment of their situational hitting. That had happened only once in team history, in 1964, when they began 1-7 on the way to 109 defeats.
“Right now we’re just not at that point where we’re putting pressure on the opposing team and getting baserunners out there,” third baseman David Wright said. “It’s almost like, again, you get one shot, maybe two shots, to score runs in the game, and if you don’t do it, it’s not happening.”
The 3-5 start has stemmed in large part from an offense that has mustered only 2.5 runs per game — a trend that Long is convinced will not continue. “I have a lot of faith in these guys, and their track records will prove that they’ll hit,” he said. “We’ll trust the process, stay diligent in our work, keep after it, and it will change.”
Decision day for deGrom. Jacob deGrom will remain in Florida to throw his bullpen session Friday, which will determine whether he will land on the disabled list. DeGrom, battling a lat injury, had been scheduled to meet the team in Cleveland, but because he isn’t slated to pitch, the Mets kept him in Florida, where he has been since the birth of his son. If cleared, he’ll meet the team in Philadelphia.