The Mets have succeeded in capturing the attention of baseball. A mere two games off the Wild Card pace, it’s crunch time at Citi Field for the next nine games…
For most Mets fans, this week is more than they could have hoped to have accomplished. All but lost in the scramble for a Wild Card spot a month ago, the team has lifted itself into a position where their destiny is in their hands – where it belongs.
Bang, bang, bang – into Citi Field come the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Cubs, each for a three-game series.
This is what teams play for. An opportunity to rise from the depths of despair with a chance to perform before a home crowd – down the stretch – and in a pennant race, few thought they would ever be in.
The Mets bring their 34-21 record at home knowing the next ten days (Monday is an off day) may very well seal their fate – up or down. In looking at each series, the one with the Cubs seems to count the most. The Mets trail the Cubs by two games in the loss column (as of today), and that margin cannot get any wider. Remember, you can’t win the games you’ve already lost.
Neither the Braves nor the Indians are direct rivals of the Mets. The Braves appear to be in a league by themselves with a nine-game advantage over the Mets. Too much to make up, especially given the schedule the Mets are facing to finish out the year. The Indians, of course, are in the American League, removing them from any direct threat to the Mets and their Wild Card aspirations.
Don’t tell any of this to Pete Alonso, though. He still believes his Mets are going to win the Division and a World Series. Good for him, and he means it.
Mets Starters Say “Bring It On”
That aside, the Mets will compete throughout the week by standing on their starting pitching. Beginning tonight, Steven Matz, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard are on deck to face Cleveland. Jacob deGrom opens against the Braves on Friday, followed by Zack Wheeler – and then the wheel spins again for the four remaining games
It doesn’t get much better than that.
The joint will be rocking in Queens tonight with a sellout crowd in attendance. Beer and hot dog vendors will go home happy with their earnings. Young Mets fans will be given permissions to watch “just one more inning” before they are commanded to sleep.
What of the Mets? Well, that depends. We can trust the starters will deliver their usual six strong innings while keeping their team in the game. If one of them has a clunker, so be it and the Mets show up to play the next day. But most likely, these games will be decided in the late innings – bullpen versus bullpen.
The Deciding Factor – Bullpens
For the Mets, that means Mickey Callaway needs to be at his best in managing how he uses his bullpen. And more than anything, Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia need to continue their rebound, locking in games for the Mets while Seth Lugo assumes a safety-valve position.
Both were brought in for that purpose by Brodie Van Wagenen. The time is now to redeem those moves. Lost in the shuffle when discussing the “disappointing” season he has had is that Diaz does have 25 saves this season. And Familia, we know what he has done for the Mets. So, it’s not like the pieces aren’t there.
It’s not all about pitching, though. Michael Conforto, Todd Frazier, Amed Rosario and, of course, Pete Alonso all hold pieces of the puzzle as well. The staff and the bullpen cannot be expected to win 2-0, 3-2, and 2-1 games.
6-3 will be a good week for the Mets. They’ll take 5-4, but that only kicks the can down the road if they expect to gain much ground. Anything less makes the climb only more complicated with 3-game series coming up on the road in Philadelphia and Washington next week, carrying their 30-39 away record with them.
The Mets are a dangerous team. Everyone in baseball knows it. The only thing remaining is for the Mets to show it, beginning tonight at Citi Field convincingly.