Last week was a series of ups and downs for the New York Mets. After taking two out of three from Kansas City and sweeping a very good Cleveland team, they dropped three in a row to Atlanta at a very inopportune time. The narrative in the media during their hot second half had been that they were only beating bad teams. The sweep against the Indians began to change the minds of some throwing their criticism towards Queens, but getting swept by Atlanta proved they still have struggles against top contenders.
The Current Picture
With a month left in the regular season, and a difficult schedule ahead, the Mets face a crucial couple of weeks if they want to make the playoffs. At 67-63, the Mets sit 2 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot. The streaking Nationals, showing no signs of falling out of Wild Card contention, hold a 4 game lead on the second place Cubs. Here’s a look at the current NL Wild Card race:
|Team||W||L||PCT||GB||GM vs Sub .500|
There are 32 games remaining for the Mets this season, and they essentially control their own destiny. Of the 32, 16 of those games are against other Wild Card contenders on this list, including a three game series against the Cubs beginning tonight. They also have a series against the Dodgers and Braves, the two best teams in the National League. Let’s break down what the Mets need to realistically do in the next month to have a chance at making the postseason.
Home vs Cubs (8/27 – 8/29)
Beginning tonight is a three game set against the Cubs, and perhaps the most important series of the season for the the Mets. Chicago holds a 2 game lead on the Mets for the second WC spot. If the Mets get swept or drop 2 out of 3 here, it would pretty much ensure they will not be playing in October. Sitting 5 games out with less than 30 to be played would be nearly impossible to bounce back from, especially with the Cubs having a significantly easier schedule down the stretch. Not to mention, back to back sweeps will really hurt the locker room morale.
The series consists of multiple pitcher’s duels, and will likely be a pivotal series for both teams.
- Tuesday 8/27 – Stroman vs Darvish
- Wednesday 8/28 – Syndergaard vs Hendricks
- Thursday 8/29 – deGrom vs Lester
Although the entire pitching staff has been performing recently, the Mets couldn’t have asked for a better time for their rotation to draw these three starters. Earlier this year, the two teams split a four game series in Chicago. If the Mets want to make postseason moves, they will need to bounce back from the weekend against Atlanta. The Cubs are also coming off getting swept by the Nationals, so both teams are showing up the Citi Field knowing the playoff implications that are up for grabs. Most importantly, the Mets now have All-Star Jeff McNeil back in the lineup, who will look to help provide an offensive spark for the series. If the Mets can take 2 out of 3 games, they will be 1 game behind Chicago, and set up with a good shot to snag that second spot.
- Goal: 2-1
- Record: 69-64
Away @ Phillies (8/30-9/1), Away @ Nationals (9/2-9/4), Home vs Phillies (9/6-9/8)
The Mets then begin a six game road trip against NL East Rivals in the month of September. Throughout the two series, they face three aces: Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, and Max Scherzer. In 11 total games against the three starters this season, the Mets have gone 6-5. They have Syndergaard and deGrom up on the mound against Corbin and Scherzer respectively. To show they have what it takes to be a playoff contender, the Mets need to beat up on bad pitching, and challenge good pitching. Over the six game road stretch, they should look to go 4-2, winning at least one game against the three aces, and clean sweeping the weak pitching in the remaining three.
Next, they return home for another three game stint against Philadelphia, this time likely avoiding Nola. To make a statement at home, they should look to sweep this series, and likely eliminate Philly from playoff contention.
- Goal: 7-2
- Record: 76-66
Home vs Diamondbacks (9/9-9/12), Home vs Dodgers (9/13-9/15)
Next up is a seven game stretch against the NL West, including four against Arizona and three against Los Angeles. Arizona has slowly been dropping off, and will be on the back half of a road trip when coming to New York. As the Mets need compete with the good teams and beat up on the bad ones, this should be a series where they dominate a sub-par team. They should look to take 3 out of 4 games, likely with deGrom, Wheeler, Matz, and Stroman on the mound.
Then comes a home series against the NL leading Dodgers. We all know, the Dodgers are good… really good. They hold the best record in the MLB at 86-46, and are looking to make their third straight World Series appearances. Obviously, the Mets don’t want to just make the playoffs, but want to compete in the postseason as well. Therefore, they need to show up to play against the defending National League Champions. The Mets should look to play a very competitive series, and take 1 out of the 3 games. Any more than that would show the Mets have what it takes to make a postseason run.
- Goal: 4-3
- Record: 80-69
Away @ Rockies (9/16-9/18), Away @ Reds (9/20-9/22), Home vs Marlins (9/23-9/26)
In the final 32 games of the season, only 10 of those games see the Mets facing teams that are below .500. September 16th-26th is a very important stretch. Again, the Mets need to clean up against the bad teams if they want to make the postseason. Therefore, this 10 game stretch will be the only chance they have to do that against sub .500 teams, and they’ll need to make a run during this time. They have three games in Colorado, followed by three in Cincinnati, ending with four at home against Miami. With difficult series before and after this stretch, they need to take at least 7-3 game.
- Goal: 7-3
- Record: 87-72
Home vs Braves (9/27-9/29)
For the final series of the season, the Mets face Atlanta again at home. If the rest of the Wild Card competing teams perform well the rest of the way, this series could make of break the Mets season. The Mets are just 5-11 against Atlanta so far this season. Optimistically, it would be great to see them finish the season strong and win the series, but you realistically have to imagine they only manage to take one game.
- Goal: 1-2
- Record: 88-74
The Home Stretch
Looking at each series realistically, 88-74 seems like a goal that has a great chance at making the post season. Since establishing the second Wild Card team in 2012, 88 wins claimed a spot to compete in October in 4 out of the 7 seasons. The Mets have the chance to situate themselves well above the Cubs, Phillies, and Diamondbacks in the race since they meet over the next month. But the rest will be up to how the other teams perform. 88 wins could miss the playoffs if the Brewers, who have 17 games remaining against sub .500 teams, play exceptionally well down the stretch.
However, 88 wins is a fair goal for the Mets to shoot for during the rest of the season. Brandon Nimmo and Jed Lowrie are both playing in rehab assignments and could find their way back on the field at some point in September. If they come back strong, a few of the close games could go in favor of the Mets, and they could end up with 90 wins, which would almost certainly solidify the second WC spot. Regardless, the Mets have a chance to make the last month of the season exciting for their fans. Reaching the playoffs would be a major turnaround from where this team was just over a month ago.
Author Twitter: @ryanmmorgan
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