Mets Schedule Is More Difficult But It’s Also An Opportunity
After losing three out of four to the Giants in San Francisco, the New York Mets had 16 games to make a last ditch effort to become relevant. The Mets did just that by winning 14 of those 16 games. Over that stretch, the Mets saw their record go from nine games under .500 to three games over. They also saw themselves go from seven games behind the second Wild Card and 14 games in the division to one game out of a Wild Card spot and eight games back in the division.
Now, we are about to find out if this Mets team is for real.
As easy as the Mets schedule was coming out of the All-Star Break, it is going to be that difficult for the next month. From August 9 to September 15, the Mets play 37 games with 34 of those games coming against teams with a record of .500 or better. When you consider this stretch includes games against the Nationals, Braves, Cubs, and Phillies, you see how the Mets have a real opportunity to face their direct competition and beat them.
As a team still chasing, you cannot ask for a better opportunity. For starters, the Mets are hosting the Nationals this weekend in a series which suddenly has the feels of the July 31 – August 2 series after the Mets obtained Yoenis Cespedes at the 2015 trade deadline. Depending on how this series goes, the Mets could find themselves either four games out and under .500 again, or they could pull themselves into a tie with the Nationals in the standings . . . just like they did in 2015.
One other point here is the Mets are not exactly out of the division race either. With this recent winning streak, they made up six games in the division. The Braves have not been playing as well of late with their being just two games over .500 since the All Star Break. It’s also noteworthy their key trade deadline acquisition, Shane Greene, blew a save and took the loss in his first two games as a Brave. As Mike Petriello of MLB.com points out this may Greene regressing after an unsustainable stretch in Detroit.
The Mets having six games against the Braves gives them a real opportunity to take the Mets chances of winning the division from fantasy to reality. Again, the Mets chances of winning either the Wild Card and the division will hinge on how they play against direct competition.
This is also the exact time the Mets want to face these teams. Since the All Star Break, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are the two best starters in the National League with Seth Lugo being the best reliever in all of baseball. Zack Wheeler has a 15.0 scoreless inning streak. Pete Alonso has homered in three straight, and Michael Conforto is red hot. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While the Mets 37 game stretch is absolutely brutal, it should be noted that 22 of those games are at home where the Mets are 12 games over .500. Of note, the Mets 20 losses is the fewest home losses in the division with only the Yankees, Astros, Cubs, and Dodgers having fewer losses at home. Put another way, when the Mets are at home, they are as good a team in baseball. That is evidenced by their 113 home wRC+ and 3.76 home FIP being the second best in the National League.
The Mets also have three games at Nationals Park. The Mets have split the first six games with the Nationals there this year, and they are 9-6 at Nationals Park since Mickey Callaway took over as the Mets manager. The Mets are also 8-5 against the Nationals this year, and they are not going to have to face Max Scherzer this weekend and possibly not in the next series.
Another note here is three of the Mets 15 road games come against the Royals who have a -109 run differential and are 12 games under .500 at home. Another three come against the Phillies, and the Mets have historically played well at Citizen’s Bank Park. In fact, the Mets have an all-time 79-67 record there even if they are just 1-6 there this season.
The Mets having a losing record at Citizen’s Bank Park this year brings us to the bad news. The Mets are 28-40 (.412) against teams over .500. If they play that way against teams with a winning record now, they are going to be well out of the postseason picture. When focusing on the specific teams the Mets will face, their records against those teams so far this year does not paint a better picture:
- Braves 4-6
- Cubs 2-2
- Diamondbacks 1-2
- Dodgers 1-3
- Phillies 4-9
- Nationals 8-5
That’s a combined 20-27 (.425). If the Mets play to a similar record, even with a sweep of the Royals, that’s a 17-20 stretch. That puts the Mets at .500 and likely dead.
That all said, this Mets team is different. As noted, the pitching staff is pitching like the best in baseball, and that is before Marcus Stroman gets a turn in the rotation on regular rest. The defense has been much better with Amed Rosario turning the corner. In fact, Rosario has turned the corner completely, and he has finally broken out.
No matter how you look at it, the Mets schedule is an opportunity. If they play well, they can secure the division and possibly put the division in play. If they can stay alive, their reward is 10 straight games against sub .500 teams before the final weekend of the season.
Whether this schedule is a blessing or a curse will depend entirely on how the Mets play. With them going 14-2 over their last 16, they are playing baseball as well as they have all season, and on that front, this is exactly the right time to take on this challenge.