For most of this year, the Mets were a team with a great rotation but without any offensive pop. They were incomplete, and for that reason, most people had them penciled in as a Wild Card team at best.
Now, thanks to a few key trade deadline moves, the return of 3B David Wright from his spinal stenosis injury, and a team-wide rally that has the likes of Wilmer Flores hitting .338/.377/.585 this month, the Mets look like a very complete team indeed. They just won their sixth game in a row — the third time that it’s happened this season — while scoring 64 runs across those wins.
The result: a 93% chance of making the playoffs with a 92.9% chance of winning the National League East. To get there, however, the Mets will have to stay hot for the remaining 36 games of the season. The Nationals won’t slump forever, and they are only 6.5 games back. Let’s take a look at the Mets schedule over the last 36 games.
Beating up on the Basement
The Mets still get one more game against the putrid Phillies before this series is up. Then, after an intermission at home against Boston, they get the Phillies again. And at the end of the year, right before their final series at home against the Nationals? You guessed it – Philly again.
The Mets also get two series each against the Marlins and the Braves, neither of whom have been very effective this year. In fact, the Marlins are every bit as terrible as the Phillies are.
The Mets also get to face some pretty lousy out-of-division teams. First, there are the aforementioned Red Sox, who are sputtering through a lost season and will head to New York for a series this weekend. Then there are the Reds, who have traded their best players and have nothing left to play for.
The Tough Games
In fact, the list of good teams that the Mets will play before the year closes out is very short: the Yankees and the Nationals. The always-intense Subway Series games will come on September 18 through 20. The Mets will see the Nationals twice, for a total of six games. Those six games are the most important ones left on the Mets schedule, and they won’t be easy. Still, it’s worth remembering that the Nationals are essentially a .500 team so far this year – and, recently, worse than that.
Putting it all together
If you’re keeping score here, you’ll see some pretty forgiving totals. Out of 36 remaining games, the Mets have:
27 games against lousy teams (the Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Reds, and Red Sox)
3 games against one competitive non-division team (the Yankees)
6 games against their rival for the division (the Nationals)
The conclusion is obvious, and a good one for Mets fans: the Mets have a real cakewalk of a schedule to end the year. With a five game lead over a slumping Nationals team, that’s a great advantage to have. While the Mets are getting a second crack at Philly next week, the poor Nationals will be at Busch Stadium playing the Cardinals, who are the best team in baseball. The Mets still have to go out there and win games, but they’re going to get every chance to do so.
A Word of Warning
Schedules aren’t everything in baseball, of course. In a league where top teams boast win percentages of around .600 and the worst get .400, you can’t count on the best teams to beat the worst ones at a rate of much more than three out of four. It’s worth remembering that some observers predicted that the Nationals would run away with the division early, thanks to a cakewalk early-season schedule. That didn’t materialize (the Nationals took quite some time to get ahead of the Mets, and have of course since lost that lead).
Still, there are a lot of reasons for Mets fans to hope about this team. A division lead and a forgiving end-of-year schedule are two of them.