A little over a week ago, I wrote a piece on the Mets' pitching staff needing to be able to keep Ryan Braun at bay when the Brewers visited Citi Field. Jose Reyes' batting average was stuck at .336 since he was placed on the disabled list in early August and Braun was beginning to creep up on the Mets' shortstop.
Of course, since they're the Mets, they failed, allowing Braun to hit .400 in the three-game series (in addition to scoring six runs, driving in three more, cracking a home run and stealing three bases, which I guess contributed more to the three-game sweep than the 4-for-10).
Since that series ended last weekend, Braun has continued to do everything offensively. In five games, he's ripped five extra-base hits (four doubles, one home run), crossed the plate four times, driven in five and stolen an addition four bases. Oh, yeah. He also hit .389 (7-for-18) over the five games, including last night's 2-for-2 performance that raised his average up to .333.
When Jose Reyes was placed on the disabled list for the first time in early July, he was hitting a robust .354. That number stayed unchanged until he returned to the Mets on July 19. When Reyes came back from the disabled list, Braun was only hitting .315, nearly forty percentage points behind Reyes.
In the time between his first and most recent DL stint, Reyes played in 18 games, hitting only .256. From July 25 until the day he re-aggravated his hamstring injury (August 7), Reyes hit a Mario Mendoza-like .208. The multi-hit game, which had become a staple for Reyes during the first half of the season had all but vanished, as he collected three multi-hit games (never getting more than two hits in any of those games) in his final 12 games before he checked back in to the DL Hotel. Over the same time period, Reyes was held hitless five times.
Since July 19 (the day Reyes returned from his first DL stint), Braun has taken off, hitting .374 (49-for-131). In addition to challenging Reyes for a batting title that appeared to be his in early July, Braun has transformed himself into the National League's leading MVP candidate. For the season, the Hebrew Hammer has a .333/.404/.592 split. That .592 slugging percentage leads the National League, as does his .996 OPS. He also leads the league in runs scored (91) and is in the top ten in hits (160), total bases (265), doubles (33), home runs (25), RBIs (86), stolen bases (30) and extra-base hits (62). With the Brewers opening up a commanding lead in the NL Central, Braun is clearly forging his way to the top of the MVP consideration list.
Unfortunately for Jose Reyes and the Mets, that's not the only thing Braun is forging his way to. Reyes' lead in batting race, which was once formidable, is now precarious. By the time Reyes comes back from the disabled list on Monday, he might be looking up at Ryan Braun on the batting race leaderboard rather than looking for him in his rear view mirror.
The Mets have never had a batting champion in their history. If Reyes is going to become the first player to do so, he's going to have to earn it, as Ryan Braun appears to be slump-proof. With the Mets out of postseason contention, a batting title for Reyes is all the fans have to cheer for over the final month of games at Citi Field. It's time for Jose Reyes to come back off the DL, stay off it for the rest of the season and become the multi-hit machine he was in the first half of the season. It might be the only way for him to keep Braun at bay and claim that long overdue first Mets batting title.