Mets enter crucial road trip with 1 goal in mind

June 16th, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Mets held a team meeting before Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals at Citi Field, and it was centered on a one-number goal, which is growing more pressing by the day: .500.

But hours later, after a 4-3 loss ended a series in which New York was in position to win every game but dropped three of four, the Mets are slipping away again, as they enter a critical road trip against the two leaders of their division and the co-leader of another.

"We need to get to .500. We talked about it this morning as a group. We need to get to .500, and then we need to start adding on past that," manager Mickey Callaway said. "We have a chance to do that on this road trip, and I expect we're gonna play good baseball and get that accomplished."

New York's upcoming 11-game swing -- which begins Monday with three games against the National League East-leading Braves, and closes with four against the second-place Phillies -- will be their longest of the 2019 season. The Mets are entering that trip 34-37, five games behind Philadelphia (39-32) and 7 1/2 behind Atlanta (42-30).

The seven games against their toughest division rivals could have a major impact on the direction of the Mets' season, as they near the halfway point. The four games in between, against the Cubs, are just one more tough task on top of it all. That's why .500, the mark the Mets have swung toward and away from all year, has become an urgent short-term target for the team to unify around.

"If you want to stay in the race, you have to play first for .500 and then go from there. That was the message today," said . "It's cool when you do those meetings as a team. It's cool to remind the team how good we are as a team. Nothing and nobody is gonna separate us. We're going to stay together, and we're going to keep going out and fight as a team."

Cano returned to the Mets on Sunday after spending the better part of the past month on the injured list with a left quad injury. The veteran second baseman, one of the critical bats in New York's lineup, went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk.

"I'm a positive guy," Cano said. "I'll always say, 'We're gonna come back from this.'"

But at some point, the Mets need the results. Their series against St. Louis could have been a Mets sweep. Instead, they barely avoided being swept.

In Sunday's finale, the Mets outhit the Cardinals 10 to three and lost; they were even into the eighth inning, until allowed the tiebreaking home run to Paul DeJong. That followed bullpen meltdowns in the first two games of the series, when blew one lead and another, and an escape by the skin of their teeth in the third, an 8-7 win saved by a game-ending play at the plate.

"It's about Ws. We've got to find ways to win, in these games especially," said. "I know it's cliche, but we just have to find ways to win. Like [Saturday]. Any way, anyhow, right now, until we get in a groove."

These are the type of series that have made .500 and above all-too-elusive territory. The Mets can't afford to keep having them if they want to be contending down the stretch, especially against teams like the Braves and Phillies.

"Every game from here on out is big. We have to make up some ground. That's the only way to put it," Frazier said. "We're 7 1/2 out. I'm a scoreboard watcher, man. I watch it all the time. But at the same time, we know we're better than this. We have to figure it out quickly."