Entering play on Aug. 23, the Mets are seven losses back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and six losses back of the Cincinnati Reds for the second Wild Card.
And as any Mets fan over the age of 21 or so knows (apologies here for the fresh dose of trauma), erasing a seven-game deficit with 17 games to play is possible. So erasing a seven (or six) game deficit with 38 games to play is certainly doable for New York.
Again, what has happened to the Mets over the last three weeks or so has been almost unfathomably bad.
They have gone from being in the driver’s seat in the NL East to third place, losing a whopping 11 games in the standings to the Braves since Aug. 1.
But as dizzying as the Mets’ drop in the standings has been, they still have time to rise back up. It likely won’t be as quick a rise as the Braves have made over the last three weeks. But the Mets don’t need the rise to be that quick. They simply need to start chipping away now, and to win a hell of a lot more games than they lose.
With 38 games left in the season, here’s what needs to happen for the Mets to turn things around and make the postseason for the first time since 2016…
How many wins will it take to win the NL East?
Figure the Mets need to get to at least 86 wins to have a chance to win the division.
And to get to 86 wins, the Mets would need to finish the season on a 25-13 run. If the Mets were to do that, they would need the Braves to go no better than 18-20 to finish the season and the Phillies to go no better than 23-15 for New York to finish in a tie or atop the NL East.
Looking at how hot the Braves have been lately, it might seem unlikely that they’ll cool off that much over the last month and change of the season. But before their recent stretch, the Braves were a team that was sub-500 for four months. And their schedule is about to get difficult after playing 12 of their last 15 games against the Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, and Baltimore Orioles.
How do the Mets, Braves, and Phillies’ upcoming schedules shake out?
After the Mets finish their brutal 13-game stretch against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants with a three-game series against the Giants at Citi Field this week, they’ll play 15 straight games against the Nats and Marlins.
Meanwhile, the Braves are about to play the Yankees (two games), Giants (three games), and Dodgers (three games) before traveling to Colorado to face the Rockies for four games.
The Phillies have one of the easiest remaining schedules of any team in baseball, but they have so far failed to take advantage of it, including a recent sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If the Mets are able to trim some of the Braves’ lead in the next few weeks, things will get interesting, with both teams set for a challenging final 25 games or so. The Mets will have to face the Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, and Milwaukee Brewers, while the Braves will deal with the Giants (again), San Diego Padres, and Phillies.
What about the Wild Card?
The first Wild Card spot is out of reach for the Mets, and will very likely either be taken by the Dodgers or Giants. But the second Wild Card spot is not out of the question.
Because of the recent skid by the Padres, the Cincinnati Reds are now in possession of the second Wild Card, six losses ahead of the Mets.
The potential issue here is that the Mets would need to leap over four teams (the 63-61 Phillies, 63-60 Cardinals, 68-58 Padres, and 69-57 Reds) to get into Wild Card position. And that could be easier said than done, especially with no head-to-head games remaining against the Reds or Padres.
The clearest path remains the NL East, but things could get interesting if the Padres continue to slide and the Reds cool off.
Lindor, Syndergaard, and deGrom would help a lot
The Mets have no one to blame but themselves for their fall from grace, but injuries to so many of their key players (including Jacob deGrom, Francisco Lindor, and the recently activated Javier Baez), and a months-long setback to Noah Syndergaard have not helped.
Now, as the Mets look to create some magic over the final month and change, Lindor could be back as soon as Tuesday against the Giants, and Syndergaard could return in a week or so (likely in a relief role).
The return of Lindor should give the Mets a huge spark on offense, defense, and when it comes to on-field leadership.
And Syndergaard in relief could give the Mets a game-changing weapon at the end of games.
The big question mark here is deGrom, who could be cleared to throw by this Friday or whose season could possibly end if his follow-up MRI doesn’t show enough progress.
In a world where deGrom is cleared this week and starts to ramp up, he could possibly be ready to return toward the end of September, which could be huge if the Mets are still in it.
A potentially enormous final series
The Mets end the regular season with three games against the Braves in Atlanta from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3.
That means that if New York can simply gain four games on the Braves in the standings between now and then, they’ll have a chance to tie them during the last weekend of the season.
What the Phillies do could of course complicate things, and the Mets’ goal should not be a situation where they need a three-game sweep in Atlanta to simply force an NL East tie.
The Mets must aim higher, and that means they need to start ripping off wins at a rate they haven’t achieved yet this season.
The above might seem like a tall task, but even as the Mets were wiped out by the Giants and Dodgers in recent series, they lost five games that were decided by just one run.
Translation? Even at their very worst lately, the Mets have been in pretty much every game. To turn things around and get on a streak, they’ll have to find a way to again start winning the close games — something they excelled at earlier this season. And that has to start right now.
Source: Yahoo Sports