Francisco Lindor
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The panic button is looking quite shiny.

And while it’s not time for Mets fans to push it, they can start sweating (but only a tad).

Lone Star struggles. Whether in Houston or at Citi Field, the Mets have not been able to keep up with the Astros. They’ve been swept in a pair of two-game series within a week.

Struggling against the Astros is not necessarily a major issue. Houston is the reigning American League champion. But if the Mets are a serious World Series contender –if they are “different,” as some fans —  they have to be competitive against top-tier teams. They can’t just rack up wins over the Marlins and Nationals.

If the Mets want to go deep into October, they’re going to need to beat the Dodgers. And the Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Padres, et cetera. It’s not a great sign they’ve failed to find any spark against the Astros.

The dwindling lead. Remember when the Mets were up 10.5 games in the National League East at the beginning of June? Well, that’s over. The Mets’ lead is now down to three now thanks to their on-field struggles and the Braves’ red-hot June (Atlanta is 21-5).

It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t signal the Mets will be a Wild Card team. They still have a cushion against the reigning world champions. But it certainly feels too close for comfort. Expanding the lead again — which would mean playing better baseball — would likely do wonders.

The upcoming stretch. The Mets have had a tough month. Four games against the Astros, a West Coast trip that included four games against the Dodgers and three against the Padres. They also had the Brewers at home. But now they’re looking at a soft 10-game stretch with the Marlins, Rangers and Reds — all sub-.500 ballclubs.

Now is the time to make a move and get comfortable atop the NL East again before a huge three-game series in Atlanta after the stretch. We say the Mets need to go 8-2 against the Rangers, Reds, and Marlins. Simple as that. Since they couldn’t play up to standards over the last week, they need to formulate a mini-run now in order to remain atop the division as the summer continues.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.