PITTSBURGH — The gang’s all here, for the first time in 2 ½ months, so the Mets’ biggest excuse for their disappointing offensive production is about to completely vanish.
J.D. Davis’ expected return from the injured list before Friday’s second-half opener against the Pirates will complete a comeback tour that in recent weeks has also included Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil, giving the Mets another proven bat to work toward resurrecting the second-worst scoring offense in MLB.
The Mets entered this week’s All-Star break leading the NL East by 3 ½ games but knowing that advantage could have been significantly better with a little help from the lineup. It’s a crew that has averaged 3.76 runs per game this season.
“We have got a lot of great hitters that haven’t hit their stride yet,” Conforto said. “We’re looking forward to Francisco [Lindor] continuing to grow at the plate and be as he has been throughout his entire career, myself included in that. I feel we have worked on some things and gotten me more to the point where I feel like myself and from top to bottom we’re starting to get more healthy, J.D. is coming back, it’s just going to create more depth, more great at-bats.
“I would expect the bats to heat up as we get into the summer and the pitching has been solid all year, so we expect the same from those guys too.”
Davis was producing at a .390/.479/.610 clip over 14 games when he sustained ligament damage in his left hand on a swing during a May 1 game in Philadelphia. A night earlier, Nimmo felt discomfort in his left index finger after getting jammed, a ligament injury that ultimately placed him on the IL. Nimmo didn’t return to the lineup until July 3.
Conforto and McNeil both suffered strained hamstrings on May 16 at Tampa Bay and each was sidelined for more than a month.
Lindor, after a brutal start to his first season with the Mets, has enjoyed a July resurgence in which he’s posted a .333/.500/.515 slash line with two homers and 10 RBIs. Over that same stretch, McNeil has emerged with a .367/.457/.400 slash line. Nimmo has produced at a .316/.366/.421 level since his return. The Mets are still waiting for Conforto, whose homer on Sunday was his first since May 1.
Blowout victories against the Yankees and Pirates contributed to the Mets averaging five runs over their 11 games to begin July, but the consistency has been lacking. In four other games, all losses, the Mets scored fewer than four runs.
“We have to be more consistent there, scoring more runs for our pitching,” manager Luis Rojas said. “We are pretty happy with the way our guys have thrown the ball, but we just have to keep backing them up, too. That is the one area I feel personally we’re going to improve, because there’s guys that have done it in the past and have not done it this year and you just expect them to have success.”
If the Mets are going to win their first NL East title since 2015 they will rely heavily on Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker and Marcus Stroman atop the rotation with a solid bullpen behind that unit. The X factor is a lineup that is finally together again.
For a change, the Mets — in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 2007 — will open the second half as the hunted.
“In my recent Mets past we have been a second-half team, kind of clawing our way back in there and we still have to have that mentality,” Conforto said.
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