WASHINGTON — If this keeps up, Jose Reyes’ greatest contribution to the Mets may prove to be as a nostalgic diversion, a way to escape from the flaming wreck now careening toward the All-Star break.
Rather than become a spark plug for the Mets’ broken lineup, Reyes could get here too late. By the time he’s done prepping at Double-A Binghamton, the Mets might already be losing their footing in the NL East race.
It’s just imperfect timing for a seriously flawed team. Terry Collins has clung to the Reyes’ dream like a drowning man to a life preserver, but more and more, this is beyond one player sprinting to the rescue.
Not Lucas Duda, who should be ready for the Tour de France after all this time spent on the stationary bike. Not Yulieski Gourriel, the Cuban star still jet-setting to more major-league auditions. Not Michael Conforto, currently working on his swing and confidence out at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Know who might have helped? Daniel Murphy, if the Mets had chosen a different offseason strategy. We realize it’s a low blow to regurgitate that all over again. But what Murphy has done to his former team this season — while batting cleanup for the Mets’ biggest rival — is getting ridiculous.
Murphy homered twice in the Mets’ 4-2 loss, giving him 14 to already match last year’s career-high total. Four of those have tormented the Mets, and he’s hitting .357 (10-for-28) against them with 10 RBIs. It’s pointless to debate his value now. But after so much discussion about the Met’s misfiring lineup, how ironic that the catalyst all along, more than anyone else, may have been Murphy.
“It’s just obvious he wants to beat those guys,” said Max Scherzer, who whiffed 10 and allowed two hits over 7 1⁄3 innings. “It puts a smile on all of our faces and it’s good for him to do that. He’s a huge reason we’re here.”
By ‘here,” Scherzer is referring to first place in the division, as the Nats’ lead increased to six games by completing the sweep. For comparison purposes, the Mets never trailed by more than 4 1⁄2 games a year ago, and for the last time on July 5.
That must sting, because the Mets are fading fast. If Sandy Alderson is waiting for the market to crystallize before making further improvements to this roster, any shot at repeating as division champs could be in dire shape by then. At least Murphy let his bat do the talking and kept pretty much silent otherwise. Murphy later said beating the Mets was important because they’re a “division opponent” and refused to attach any personal significance to haunting them — despite Scherzer clearly stating the contrary.
With Murphy long gone, Collins talked earlier in the day about adding Reyes sooner than later. But it took his fourth minor-league game, including two at short-season A Brooklyn, to finally get a hit. Reyes also was trying to get his buddy David Wright on the phone for some advice on playing third base, so he evidently feels like more time is required to get comfortable at the position.
“If he comes up here and he’s not ready to play, and he struggles, and now [people say] we shouldn’t have signed him,” Collins said Wednesday afternoon. “That extra pressure is put on him. When he’s ready, he’ll be here. And when he gets here, I know he’ll help us.”
The Mets obviously need some help. Bad. When they fell behind Wednesday night to the Nats 2-0, in the third inning, with Scherzer on the mound, the game appeared kaput. In the midst of a 23-inning scoreless streak, it would take the Mets days to rebound from such a deficit, and Scherzer made the task seem like Mission Impossible.
“It’s big to be able to sweep these guys,” Scherzer said. “I know it’s only June, but anytime you can sweep your division rivals, it’s huge.”
Maybe to the Nats it seems early. But for the Mets, it’s starting to feel late. Before much longer, it could be over.