Mets gear up for crucial stretch of schedule

New York set to take on string of tough opponents in July

Mets gear up for crucial stretch of schedule

NEW YORK -- The Mets will hit the midway point of what could be a pivotal year in the franchise's trajectory this week, and manager Terry Collins isn't taking anything for granted. He knows his team cannot rest on what's been an up-and-down (but overall successful) first half.

"We're at a critical point," Collins said of his team, which sports a 40-37 record and now faces its season's roughest stretch.

Starting with this week's home series against the Cubs, seven of the Mets' next nine opponents currently have a winning record. Of the 25 games scheduled for July, 14 are against teams currently in first place, including four against the National League East-leading Nationals. Also on tap is a tough road series at San Francisco, which is just a game behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West. Surrounding that series are home matchups against the Cubs and Dodgers, as well as road series against the Cardinals, Nats and Dodgers again.

Collins on Mets' 2-1 victory

The only relief, at least on paper, could come in the form of home series against the D-backs and Padres. But those teams are not cakewalks by any means; New York went just 3-4 on a recent trip to San Diego and Arizona.

"Just look at who we play in July," Collins said. "It's critical. We're playing all division-leading teams in the month of July, so you better believe it's critical. We better pick up the way we play."

The Mets have been a streaky team all season. First came their 11-game April winning streak. On its most recent road trip, New York lost seven in a row. Now the Mets are in the midst of four straight wins following Steven Matz's triumphant Major League debut Sunday that completed a sweep of the Reds.

Must C: Amazing Matz's debut

But Matz's four-RBI effort aside, victories don't equate to flawlessness for New York. The Mets continue to struggle to score runs, no matter what type of streak they're on. After scoring nine runs in the last road trip's seven straight losses, they scored just six runs in their next three wins. Sunday's seven-run outburst was the Mets' highest output in two weeks and just their third time scoring that many runs in 25 June games.

New York ranks 27th in the Majors and 14th in the NL in runs scored. The Nationals, D-backs, Giants, Padres, Dodgers and Cards rank second through seventh on the NL list.

Strictly speaking, the Mets might have their work cut out for them.

"The schedule is what it is," said catcher Johnny Monell. "At the same time, we have to do our job and compete. I think we're going to do that."

Granderson's RBI double

"You control what you can control," added Curtis Granderson. "Who knows what will happen. Who knows how teams will be playing when you face them. You hope you're at your best when you run up against teams, and they're at their best so you can measure yourself against them."

This upcoming stretch should provide New York the perfect measuring stick.

Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.