As the second half of MLB season kicks off, there are two teams hoping that the All-Star break can help change the negative momentum they’ve spun into: The Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets.
The Cubs started this season at a pace that put them among the best teams in regular season history. Until mid June, they were an incredible 47-20, with two starters who looked untouchable, and a lineup that was impossible to get through. Back or rotation weakness? A so-so bullpen? That didn’t seem to matter. This is the year the Cubs’ five-year plan is suppose to result in a World Series. Last year was the bump into the playoffs, and even the NLCS. This is the year when all the hard work should pay off, and end a century old curse.
But things turned in the wrong direction. Since June 20, the Cubs have won only one series, and it was against the Cincinnati Reds. Overall they’ve gone 6-15 in these four weeks, getting swept in series against the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, and lost a one night stand against the Atlanta Braves. Four of their losses came with one run between them and their opponent – luck and poor execution in the end are part of the problem. But for a team that until not too long ago was leading the MLB standings by a huge margin, suddenly looking behind their shoulder at the Pirates and Cardinals seems weird, and maybe panicking.
The Mets lost their last three games, putting them already six behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East, tied with the Miami Marlins. Unlike the Cubs, who might have overplayed their hand in the first two months of the season, injuries and “mortality” have come into play. The injuries to David Wright and Lucas Duda have the Mets scrambling to make small signings (Jose Reyes) that might help undo the complications.
But their pitching conundrum, with their young rotation stars no longer unhittable, could be more worrying. Matt Harvey is injured, while Thor (Noah Syndergaard) and Steven Matz have done poorly lately. Matz has lost his last two starts while Syndergaard has lost two of his last three, and has played more than six innings just twice in his last six starts, not looking as dominant as he has earlier in the season.
Answer? The Cubs are still looking for bullpen options through trades, but the vibe coming out of the clubhouse is that this is mostly a problem of fixing little things, and getting momentum back on. The Mets are looking for answers elsewhere, suddenly also participating in the trade game, out for starting pitchers to help them in their time of need. Last year, both teams looked like the next big thing. The Mets haven’t gone on a dive like the Cubs over the last four weeks, but they seem to be on the edge, with not enough cover to keep them from falling.