It has been quite a summer in Queens. For much of the season, the New York Mets took their fanbase on a rollercoaster ride filled with lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of great pitching but not a whole lot of runs scored. Since the trade deadline on July 31, a day in which the Mets acquired superstar outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and started a three-game series against the first-place Washington Nationals, it has been nothing but good times for the Amazins.
However, it was the day before the trade deadline, July 30, that may have been the low point of the season. After a trade for outfielder Carlos Gomez fell through the previous night, the Mets suffered an absolutely crushing loss against the second-division San Diego Padres. The Mets held a 7-1 lead over the Friars entering the seventh inning — by the ninth inning the lead had shrunk to 7-5. Jeurys Familia set down the first two batters he faced in the ninth before a rain delay prevented him from getting the last out. Once the game resumed, Familia allowed the first two batters to reach base. Then, Justin Upton blasted a three-run home run to give the Padres an 8-7 lead. The Mets went down quietly in their half of the ninth.
Since that game, the Mets have gone 22-9 and currently hold a 6.5 game lead in the National League (NL) East. Three of those wins include a three-game sweep of the Nationals right after that loss against the Padres. While the Mets were excellent in August, the Nationals absolutely collapsed going 12-17 last month. This came as a shock considering everyone, myself included, picked the Nats to win the World Series. However, for Mets fans, this couldn’t be better news.
With all of the positivity surrounding the team, we have to keep in mind that there is still a month of the season left and anything can happen. I don’t think I need to remind Mets fans of the dreadful September collapses of 2007 and 2008. While the Mets do have an easy schedule the rest of the season (except for six games against the Nationals and three games against the New York Yankees) the same could have been said about the last month of the 2007 season. Teams that are out of the pennant race love to spoil the postseason hopes of contenders late in the season. This is especially true for teams in the same division as contenders, and the Mets will play 22 games against teams in their division the rest of the way. Not only that, but the Nationals are looking at those six games against the Mets and they know those are must-win games. There is already talk of the Nationals arranging their rotation so they have one of their three best starting pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg) starting each of those six crucial games. Throw in the fact that the Nats are finally fully healthy and this division race is far from over.
However the Nationals are not the only team that is starting to get healthy. Recently team Captain David Wright has returned from a back injury that has kept him on the disabled list since April. On Monday, Aug. 24 Wright homered into the upper-deck in Philadelphia during his first at-bat since returning from injury. Wright will not play every day as the team will keep an eye on his spinal stenosis injury, but it’s still great to see the Captain back and contributing. Young pitching phenome Steven Matz will return from the disabled list to start on Sunday, Sept. 6 against the Miami Marlins. He has only made two Major League starts but he was fantastic in both of them — and he is expected to be an excellent pitcher for years to come. It’ll be interesting to see if manager Terry Collins decides to use him out of the bullpen in the postseason if the Mets make it. Lucas Duda is currently on the disabled list with a back injury, but it’s not serious and he is expected to return soon.
While a postseason appearance is still not a sure-fire thing, it’s difficult to not think about October with this current Mets squad. The way the playoff bracket is set up, the winner of the National League Eastern Division is most likely going to play the winner of the National League Western Division in the first round of the playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers currently hold a 6.5 game lead over the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. Mets fans should pray that the Dodgers hold on to win that division. While their offense is very solid and Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are fantastic pitchers, the rest of their pitchers are not as consistent. Their bullpen is very shaky and after the two aces their starting rotation is terrible. Meanwhile, the Giants have won three of the past five World Series and have not lost a postseason series since the 2003 National League Division Series. While the Dodgers may seem like the better team on paper, this Giants team knows how to win in the postseason and you do not want to face them come playoff time.
So is it a definite that the Mets will make the playoffs? Absolutely not. Even with a 6.5 game lead, there is still a whole month of baseball for some teams to get hot and some teams to collapse. But it sure does look as though there will be playoff games in Queens for the first time since 2006. With one of, if not the best starting rotations in baseball there could be quite a few October games at Citi Field. But anything can happen in September. The Mets and their fans know that all too well.