In what way should the Mets' recent offensive uptick be perceived? Was it a temporary surge, the kind of modest hot streak even the lightest of light-hitting lineups typically experience at some point in a lengthy season? Had the Mets truly turned a corner?
"Right now, we're hitting balls that we didn't hit a month ago," manager Terry Collins said before Thursday night's 3-1 loss to the Braves. "The approach isn't different, but we're hitting balls where a while ago, we were swinging and missing . . . That's what's great about our game. There's no constants."
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Hot hitting never is constant, either.
Braves starter Aaron Harang served as somewhat of a gauge for the Mets' improvement. In the Braves' 6-0 win April 18, Harang no-hit his former team for seven innings. The Mets hoped to atone Thursday night, Daniel Murphy said, with a plan of "looking for something up in the zone and centering it."
But they were unable to execute that, and Harang (9-6) held them in check for seven innings. The righthander walked four but allowed only four hits and a run, working the corners and keeping the Mets off balance. David Wright's third-inning RBI single was all they could muster.
"We didn't have great swings on him," Collins said afterward. "We had a chance in the fifth inning, but we couldn't get the big hit. That's what we've been getting, the big hits."
Could this game be evidence that the Mets are cooling down? Was the one-week tear no more than a one-week tear? Travis d'Arnaud insists that's not the case. "You tip your cap to [Harang]," said d'Arnaud, who went 1-for-4. "But we still feel like we're in that offensive groove. This was just one game."
Indeed. One game is the tiniest of sample sizes, and the Mets did average 5.6 runs in their previous six, of which they won five. Their 34 RBIs were second most in the National League in that span.
If the Braves are considered the proverbial heat check, with their 3.29 staff ERA, then there is substance in the Mets' offense clicking as they took three of four games (including Tuesday's 18-hit eruption).
"For the most part, we've been stringing together quality at-bats," Murphy said. "When you feel like you're going to get rewarded for a good swing, guys tend to do a little less and just try to hit the ball hard."