The Mets finished the first half of their season Monday night still in first place in the NL East with 81 games left to play.
The first 81 games featured a heavy dose of injuries, strong starting pitching and resilient comebacks, mixed with a widespread lack of offense and the rest of the division not exactly giving them a run for their money.
The next 81, set to begin Tuesday night against the Brewers at Citi Field, will decide whether the Mets play into October or end up as a disappointment.
“I’m pleased with how we’ve played,” manager Luis Rojas said. “But this is where we gotta tell each other that we gotta keep going.”
Here are five questions that follow the Mets into the second half of their season:
1. Can the top of the rotation keep this up?
The Mets have largely been bolstered by a terrific trio of starting pitchers in Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman. One is an All-Star and the other two had arguments to join deGrom in Colorado next week.
While deGrom carried a 0.95 ERA into his start Tuesday night in the midst of a historically dominant season, Walker (2.44) and Stroman (2.60) have also been critical to the Mets’ success. Equally important is that they have remained mostly healthy — aside from a few scares, including an IL stint for deGrom.
But can they keep this up the rest of the way? Even if they fall slightly back to Earth, or closer to their career ERAs, they should still give the Mets a chance to take care of business in the division.
2. What do they get from the rest of the rotation?
Just how tight things get down the stretch could depend on what the Mets get from the back end of their rotation. Acting GM Zack Scott said Monday he’s approaching the trade deadline thinking of Carlos Carrasco (potential late July return) and Noah Syndergaard (potential Sept. 1 return) as “bonuses” rather than givens.
With Joey Lucchesi (Tommy John surgery) and David Peterson (oblique strain) also unavailable, it seems likely that Scott will add at least one arm before the deadline. Just how impactful that arm is remains to be seen, as does whether Tylor Megill can keep up his promising introduction to the big leagues.
3. Can the lineup finally play up to its potential when healthy?
The Mets, who scored 3.69 runs per game in their first 81 games (second-worst in MLB), have talked about being a strong offense when they get everyone back from the IL. After having as few as three regular starters in the lineup at one point earlier in the season, the Mets’ starting position players could be fully healthy by the time they get to the All-Star break, with J.D. Davis potentially the last one back this weekend.
“One of the things I want to see is our offense get going like it has been for the last couple days and for us to be consistent and get more quality at-bats and be able to score more runs because we can count on good pitching, but we don’t know,” Rojas said.
4. Will Francisco Lindor rise to the occasion?
One big way to deliver a jolt to the offense is by getting more production from Lindor. The shortstop has been healthy all season and key to an improved defense, but entered Tuesday hitting .219/.318/.358. He’s mixed brutal slumps with promising stretches, but the Mets need more of the latter to get their offense clicking.
5. What kind of test will the rest of the NL East give them?
What was expected to be one of MLB’s toughest divisions coming into the year instead had just one team over .500 entering Tuesday — the Mets. While the Nationals have played better of late, the Braves and the Phillies have not played up to their potential. But all three teams could serve as a legitimate challenger for the NL East if they get their act together or perhaps add at the trade deadline.