The Monday Takeaway
From bullpen meltdowns to on-air rants, 1-11 skids to 16-1 routs, this hasn’t exactly been a banner year for the Mets. After going a surprising 46-40 during the first half, Terry Collins’ squad is just 23-43 since the All-Star break, and it is only four days removed from a tie with the Marlins for last place.
But in a season that ranks as a disappointment, even by Mets standards, there have been notable bright spots. R.A. Dickey’s remarkable campaign is one. David Wright’s .351/.441/.563 first half is another. Matt Harvey’s dazzling cameo, during which he fanned 70 batters in 59 1/3 innings, is a third. And on Monday, Ike Davis—who just a week ago was the subject of trade rumors spurred by claims that the first baseman is a bad influence on younger teammates—provided a fourth.
The 25-year-old Davis was mired in a slump for much of the first half, hitting just .201/.271/.388, a far cry from his .302/.383/.543 triple slash in 36 games during an injury-marred 2011. But whether that poor output was the result of rust or fatigue from a possible bout with valley fever, Davis has fared much better since late July. He improved to .257/.343/.541 since the All-Star break by going 2-for-4 with a pair of home runs in yesterday’s 6-2 win over the Pirates, and became the first Met to post a 30-homer season since Carlos Delgado in 2008, when the team still played its home games at Shea Stadium.
In addition to that power display, Davis has showcased a significantly better approach throughout the second half, cutting down on the ugly swings that produced 77 strikeouts in 268 first-half at-bats and left his average hovering near the Mendoza line. He delivered his first career three-homer game on July 28, but promptly relapsed into an 0-for-13 schneid with nine strikeouts over the ensuing three contests. Since then, though, Davis has drawn 25 walks and fanned only 34 times in 175 plate appearances—a rate that is especially forgivable when you consider that he ranks second in the National League, behind only Chase Headley, with 18 second-half home runs.
Davis is far from a flawless player: Even with the summer surge, he carries a lowly 561 OPS against left-handed pitching, a platoon split that is particularly worrisome at what is typically a premium offensive position. But the former 18th overall draft pick is regaining the form that made him a quality regular before the season-ending ankle injury. And for an organization with few bright spots, and equally few useful, young position players under its long-term control, Davis’ recovery has been a pleasant surprise, one that should convince general manager Sandy Alderson to keep him in Queens.
What to Watch for on Tuesday
- Francisco Liriano has been as maddening for the White Sox as he was for the Twins, but the mercurial left-hander gets a favorable matchup in what figures to be his penultimate start of the regular season. After edging the Indians, 5-4, on Monday, Robin Ventura’s team could clinch a series win with another victory tonight, and Chicago will look to Liriano, who has not yet started a game against Cleveland this season, to lead the way. The Indians, who rank dead last in the American League with a 646 team OPS versus left-handed pitching, will do their best to back Corey Kluber as they try to play spoiler in Tuesday’s lone matinee (2:10 p.m. ET).
- Later, the Tigers—who remained a game back in the American League Central by downing the Royals, 6-2, on Monday—will send their own trade deadline acquisition, Anibal Sanchez, to the mound for game two of their set at Comerica Park. Sanchez has struggled in his two months as an American Leaguer, amassing a 4.55 ERA that climbs to 5.98 if you eliminate his three outings versus Cleveland, but he held the Royals to one run in seven innings on Aug. 29. The 28-year-old righty was a tough-luck loser that day, as the Tigers fell 1-0, but he can avenge that defeat in tonight’s rematch with Bruce Chen. Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera could use this game to boost his Most Valuable Player candidacy; he is 11-for-26 (.423 average) lifetime with three homers against Chen (7:05 p.m. ET).
- Speaking of awards, the American League Cy Young is also still up for grabs, and Felix Hernandez’s recent lull opened the door for other contenders, such as David Price. With a 2.27 ERA and 83-to-20 K:BB in 83 1/3 innings since the All-Star break already on his résumé, the 18-5 Price could win over (pun intended) some undecided voters by collecting victories in each of his last two starts. Price and Jered Weaver are the only junior circuit starters with a realistic shot to reach 20 wins, and step one for the southpaw is shutting down the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Look out for Danny Valencia, who has somehow gone 6-for-7 (.857 average) in his two prior encounters with Price, in the series opener (7:10 p.m. ET).
- When Hanley Ramirez last logged a walk, the NFL season had not yet started and the Democratic National Convention was still in progress. I say “logged,” rather than “drew,” because that walk on Sept. 5 was intentional. Ramirez’s last unintentional base on balls came way back on Sept. 1, and it remains the only one on his September line, which also includes 26 strikeouts in 78 at-bats. The 29-year-old infielder is expected to play today despite leaving Sunday’s game with a bruised foot, and he has a golden opportunity to snap his walk-less streak in a matchup with National League walks leader Edinson Volquez—who, incidentally, delivered his first walk-less start in nearly six years on Sept. 19 (10:05 p.m. ET).