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Mets' second-half keys to success

Travis d'Arnaud of the New York Mets singles

Travis d'Arnaud of the New York Mets singles to score two runs in the third inning during a gamel against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 9, 2015 in Washington. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mitchell Layton

After winning seven of their past 10 games to conclude a typically tumultuous first half of play, the Mets sit just two games out of first place in the NL East and one game behind the Cubs for the second wild-card spot.

While the young pitching staff has performed just as electric as advertised, the Amazin's wounded offense is threatening to extend the franchise's playoff drought to nine seasons.

Here are three factors that loom large for the Mets, who open the second half on the road tomorrow against the NL Central-leading Cardinals, coming out of the All-Star break.

No Cudd-ing it

At this point, the likelihood of captain David Wright having a substantial impact in the second half appears slim, with the 32-year-old still without a return timetable since his spinal stenosis diagnosis. While Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores and Curtis Granderson have all hit well enough for stretches in the first half to signal they could help lift the offense this summer, Michael Cuddyer has not.

After hitting just .244 with a .294 on-base percentage and seven homers, Cuddyer has until the July 31 trade deadline to show he's got some life left in his bat. If he fails, Sandy Alderson must acquire a replacement for the Mets to stay in contention.

Getting back Travis

Dating back to the second half of last season, Travis d'Arnaud has been an offensive force for the Mets. He just can't stay healthy.

The catcher has been nursing a sprained elbow since June 20, sustained shortly after returning from a near two-month absence due to a broken pinkie. In 19 games this season, he's hitting .296/.338/.535, while rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki has hit nowhere near those numbers since being pushed into action.

Adding d'Arnaud to this lineup will arguably present a bigger upgrade than any bat the Mets would legitimately consider on the trade market, but he's still without a return date.

Rotation of riches

Despite the offensive woes, the Mets remain in the playoff hunt thanks to a dominant pitching staff, whose 3.23 ERA is third-best in baseball.

The club must soon decide if it wishes to deal a starter -- most likely lefthander Jonathon Niese -- but the desire to keep a six-man rotation to prevent flamethrowers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz from exceeding innings limits could hinder a potential trade for offensive help.


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