Mets Look To Clinch Division

Mets fans have a tendency to expect the worst, no matter how well things are going for the team. As October approaches and the New York Mets inch closer to their first division title since 2006, it seems that the fans are only getting more paranoid.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the fans didn’t have a worry in the world. Back on Monday, Sept. 7 the Mets began a three-game series against the Washington Nationals, who were a mere four games behind them for the division lead. Many people thought this would be the beginning of yet another September collapse for the Amazins’.

Instead the exact opposite happened. The Mets won all three games in spectacular comeback fashion to go up seven games in their division and put a final nail on the Nationals’ coffin. The toughest game for the Nationals was the second game of that series. With the Nats’ up 7-1 going into the seventh inning it seemed like a Washington win was a formality. But the Mets rallied for six runs in the inning to tie the game up at seven. Then in the eighth inning, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a pinch-hit homerun to give the Mets an 8-7 lead that they would hold onto for a stunning victory.

After their three-game sweep of the Nationals, the Mets went on to win five straight games against the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves. During that stretch on Sunday, Sept. 13 the Mets had another insane comeback, this time against the Braves. The Braves were up 7-4 in the ninth inning with two outs before two Mets batters reached base. Daniel Murphy then came up to bat and blasted a three-run game tying homerun to stun the Atlanta crowd. The Mets would go on to score three runs in the 10th inning for another unbelievable win. Mets announcer Gary Cohen said it best when he simply said, “This team doesn’t know how to lose.”

But since that eight-game winning streak, there has been panic in Queens. After winning the first game of a three-game series against the Marlins, the Mets lost the next two games to third-place Miami. The Mets then hosted the Subway Series against the New York Yankees from Friday, Sept. 18 to Sunday, Sept. 20 and promptly lost two of three games. The team’s recent skid has installed fear that an unbelieveable collapse is still probable.

A lot of concern has surrounded the team’s pitching staff as well. There has been controversy surrounding team ace Matt Harvey and how management should handle his innings limit. Harvey is coming off of Tommy John Surgery and his agent Scott Boras doesn’t want the Mets to damage his future by overusing his fragile arm. As a result, the team has skipped a few of his starts and shortened the length of his other starts. It’s not just the “Dark Knight” that has been monitored. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have had their starts skipped, and there is concern about overusing their talented arms. There has been talk of even shortening the amount of innings these three pitchers throw in the playoffs, especially Harvey.

As unpleasant as this is to hear, I’m not as concerned as others. I have no problem with the team limiting the amount of innings their three star pitchers throw the rest of the regular season. As for the playoffs, I would be shocked to see management not use their three best pitchers as much as needed. Harvey has guaranteed that he will pitch in the playoffs, and with his bulldog mentality you know he will want to be out there as much as he can. As for deGrom and Syndergaard, if it’s a 1-0 game in the seventh inning there is no way either of these guys will come out of the game. The team understands how rare it is to have an opportunity to win a title. If they didn’t, the Mets wouldn’t have made so many trades over the past two months.

Even if the team decides to limit the amount of pitches these guys throw in the playoffs, here is something to keep in mind. In Game 7 of the World Series last year, the San Francisco Giants held a slim 3-2 lead over the Kansas City Royals after four innings. The Giants were five innings away from their eighth title in franchise history. They brought their ace starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner out from the bullpen to pitch the last five innings. Bumgarner would go on to shut down the Royals and clinch the Giants’ third World Series title in five years. Sometimes it’s not the amount of innings that you throw that’s important, but when you throw those innings. If the Mets limit Harvey to one start per series, that would mean he is well rested enough to come out of the bullpen in another game or two of that series. If Harvey comes out of the bullpen to pitch the final few innings of a crucial game or two, well that may be even better than giving him an extra start. If the Mets truly decide to limit the amount of innings their aces throw in the postseason, that just opens the door for a lot of strategy that should scare their opponents.

As for the potential of an epic collapse to keep the team out of the playoffs, well that is just a scenario that is almost guaranteed to not happen. The Mets currently have a 6.5 game lead in the National League East. This means the team’s magic number is five. Even if the Nationals win all 11 of their remaining games, the Mets only have to go 5-5 in their last 10 games to clinch the division. This is assuming that an underachieving Nationals team that hasn’t won more than eight straight games all season suddenly wins their last 11 games. Sure, the Nationals’ last three games will be against the Mets, but they would still have to enter that series three games behind to even have a shot at the postseason. Not to mention the Nationals would then have to win all three games against the Mets and then defeat them in a one-game playoff. Given the fact that the Mets are 10-6 against the Nats’ this season, that nearly impossible scenario becomes even more impossible.

Relax, Mets fans. The team lost a few games and has a little bit of concern over their insanely talented pitching staff, it’s not the end of the world. This isn’t 2007, the Mets will hold onto their division lead and will make the playoffs. If they don’t, well, my email is on this page and you can send me all of your hate then. But I’m not expecting to receive any hate mail.