The Mets continue to play like a team with a pack of wild wolves chasing them. One game at a time. But what needs to happen to pull this off?
Mets players don’t care about numbers, odds, and the latest Wild Card Standings. They can’t afford to play games with those monkeys on their back. All the players can do is what they are doing – winning.
Led overall by Mickey Callaway‘s subdued guidance and enthusiasm, together with Pete Alonso, the team’s one-person cheerleading and run-producing squad, the Mets picked up a game on the Chicago Cubs last night, who lost to the Brewers, reducing the deficit to four games.
Last night, it was Alonso who introduced a new way to win a ballgame by inducing a bases-loaded walk to beat the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The drama shouldn’t have been necessary, though, as fans watched Edwin Diaz implode once again (what are we going to do with this guy?) by allowing two runs in the top of the frame.
The home run, this time a two-run shot by J.T. Realmuto, sealed Diaz’s fate yet again. Typically though, Diaz also struck out the side. Go figure. More on Diaz later.
The game featured not only the resilience of the Mets but the varied contributions of individuals. Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, and Wilson Ramos each drove home a run, adding to Alonso’s two, giving him 107 RBI for the season.
Steven Matz struggled successfully through 6.2 innings, surrendering only two runs. Matz’s effort gives him thirteen quality starts (six innings plus allowing three or fewer runs) on the season.
That’s one game. The Mets have two more with the Phillies before the red-hot Arizona Diamondbacks come in for a four-game series, followed by the Dodgers for three to conclude the homestand.
Handicapping The Mets Chances
In handicapping the Mets chances of snaring the final Wild Card spot, it’s best to first look at the all-important loss column, which you can see is tight on the table below.
Unfortunately, the Mets to not meet the Cubs and Brewers again this season. By Thursday, the team is done with the Phillies and D-Backs as well. Which leaves the Mets standing on their own and playing out the schedule with as few losses as possible. There will be some scoreboard watching as well.
But mainly, the team’s task now is to keep that loss column from growing. Sweeping the Phillies in the two remaining games this weekend puts the Mets two games up in the loss column.
The Cubs playing the Brewers this weekend is a push, meaning one of the two teams will gain ground on the Mets. Meanwhile, Arizona is in Cincinnati facing the Reds best pitcher, Luis Castillo (14-5, 3.25), so there may be help there.
It’s still a crapshoot though. Any of the five teams are capable of going on a run that seals the Wild Card up in the next two weeks. The Mets have had such a run, and the D’Backs are on one now. The Cubs, Brewers, and Phillies have not mustered up a streak, making the odds of doing so now (after 140 games) less than probable.
Mostly, the Mets are where they’ve been all season – on the outside looking in. The team is not folding, however, and the clubhouse is tight (in the right way).
No Matter How You Look At It – It’s About The Bullpen
Ironically, the Mets season still hinges on their bullpen. Seth Lugo, Justin Wilson, and Luis Avilan cannot pitch in every game the Mets play, making it fair to say that as Diaz and Familia go so will the Mets.
Concerning Diaz, not even the Mets pitching guru Phil Regan can figure him out. The slider’s there; the slider’s not there. Who knows? But the salient point remains. If Diaz and, to a lesser extent Familia, can’t come up with anything better than they are giving, the Mets are doomed, no matter how many home runs Pete Alonso hits.
Callaway: Try Something Different?
Perhaps, Mickey Callaway can try either or both as an opener in a game or two. What’s the difference if they deliver quality innings in the front end of a game instead of the back end? As long as they get hitters out – who cares?
But if I’m looking anywhere to test the fate of the Mets, it’s the bullpen. Mickey Callaway has no choice at this point but to keep running Diaz and Familia out there. Help is not on the way in this movie.
Brodie Van Wagenen built the team having two strong closers in mind. It hasn’t worked out that way. And so it’s odd how similar the Mets team we saw in March is the same as the one we see now in September. We knew they could hit and score runs. We knew their starting rotation was their overall strength.
And Lord, we hoped the Mets bullpen would find its way as the final; piece of the puzzle. We’re still hoping…