Mets Go Quietly Into the Break

Shutout loss to Cubs ends first half on unhappy note

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012  |  Updated 9:35 AM EDT
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Mets Go Quietly Into the Break

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Niese struggled early and the Mets punched out after a half-inning.

The Mets weren't supposed to start the All-Star break until after Sunday afternoon's game with the Cubs, but they wound up getting an eight-and-a-half inning head start.

Chicago posted four runs against Jon Niese in the first inning, a rough start that Niese recovered from but one that the Mets lineup took as an excuse for a day off. Ryan Dempster is a good pitcher, but the Mets swung and missed with so little conscience that it looked like they had one eye on the departure time of a flight from LaGuardia.

Anyone who has ever sat in a classroom waiting for the bell that brings a week without school knows how hard it is to can be to work while vacation looms. The Mets hacked and slashed at just about every pitch, which at least meant that their 7-0 loss didn't drag on.

It was strange to see the Mets that way. Terry Collins' team has made its bones this season by fighting and scrapping its way to every positive result they've earned, but they basically rolled over and quit on Sunday once Niese put them in a deep hole.

Fairly shameful stuff to pull in front of a home crowd that you're trying to convince to turn out in bigger numbers over the second half, but it is hard to focus on a solitary performance after a first half that's been filled with so much positivity for the franchise.

The bad taste of Sunday can't get in the way of what R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana and David Wright have done this season, a trio that has pulled their teammates to results far beyond what they could have accomplished without such star quality at the center of the team. The bad taste can't change Collins' strong work or the fact that this year's 46-40 start hasn't come at the expense of the team's brightening future.

On the other hand, a win on Sunday wouldn't have obscured the fact that Sandy Alderson's got some work to do to make sure that this fun little start doesn't go the same way as winning records at the halfway point in 2010 and 2011. It wouldn't have erased the need for Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and others to do more to make the offensive attack about more than just Wright and Scott Hairston's ability to mash lefties into pulp.

The final week of the first half illustrated both of these truths. The Mets went 3-3 against the Phillies and Cubs, two of the worst teams in baseball to this point in the season, and that mark continued this Mets' season-long habit of never moving too far in any one direction.

It will take more than that to have this season end up with a playoff spot, but, for now, the key for the Mets is that they are in position to make some noise over the second half. Things were supposed to be much worse than that and that makes the first half a rousing success even if it ended on a sleepy note.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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