Smaller Stories in the Big Picture
Peter Alonso’s supporting cast – First baseman Peter Alonso gets the most attention of any Mets position player, and rightfully so. He is running away with the NL Rookie of the Year award, and if not for guys named Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, he’d be gunning for an MVP as well. But the Mets’ return to relevance has been a team effort, through and through.
Since they began their ascension back into the playoff race around the All-Star break, the Mets have six players with 100-plus plate appearances and a wRC+ above 100. J.D. Davis has been on an absolute tear, Amed Rosario appears to have finally turned a corner, and Jeff McNeil is quietly emerging as one of the best pure contact hitters in the game. And that’s to say nothing of Michael Conforto’s 10 second-half home runs.
This lineup presents every bit as formidable a challenge as the Tribe’s most recent opponents in the Twins, Red Sox, and Yankees.
The Indians aren’t faltering – After taking three of four in Minnesota two weekends ago, expectations for the immediate future were as high as they’ve been all year. The Indians proceeded to drop two of three to the Red Sox, then split a four-gamer with the Yankees, 2-2. The end result–with the Twins absolutely stomping the Rangers this past weekend–is the Indians now find themselves once again looking up at the division leader.
But a 3-4 stretch against two of the better hitting lineups in baseball doesn’t exactly qualify as disappointing. The Indians should have won two games against Boston, and they very easily could have won all four in the Bronx. Both of their losses to the Yankees over the weekend were by one run each. They also scored 19 in the series opener.
This is not a team crumbling under the weight of a schedule that finally got difficult. With the exception of some rapidly growing bullpen concerns and the question of just how long they can ride a starting rotation comprised of 40% rookies, the Indians have proven they belong on the same field as “the good teams.”
The Indians have continued to get contributions up and down the lineup, keeping themselves within striking distance in just about every game they’ve played over the last several weeks. With their ace on the mound and the bats still sizzling after a 34-run weekend at Yankee Stadium, the Tribe is set to start this three-game showdown with the Mets on a good note.