by Paul West
Things certainly haven’t gone as planned for the defending National League Champions. Since a strong, promising April, the New York Mets are a sub-.500 team that just can’t catch a break. Two-thirds of their Opening Day lineup has spent time on the disabled list, and their current DL reads like a viable starting lineup on its own. Fortunately, due in part to their strong start and in part to the mediocrity surrounding them in the Wild Card race, the Mets are still within striking distance in early August.
Last night, after Steven Matz out-dueled Zack Greinke, the normally reliable Hansel Robles allowed three runs. The Mets suffered yet another in a growing list of agonizing defeats, and as of August 9th, they sit a stunning nine games behind the Washington Nationals, having fallen to third place in the NL East. Fortunately, they remain but two games out of the second Wild Card position; the St. Louis Cardinals have begun to free-fall, beset by their own slew of injuries, while the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins continue to fail to assert themselves, largely due to having to play other contenders. Meanwhile, the Mets have begun a nine-game stretch in which they exclusively play the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, both of whom have shown signs of life but both of whom still count as second-tier opponents.
Make no mistake: the Mets have entered do-or-die territory.
The schedule, as configured, gives the Mets a chance to make up ground while other contenders are playing each other, guaranteeing one of them loses each day. They still play the Nationals three more times, and it bears remembering that the Mets gained almost two digits worth of standings ground on the Nationals around this time last year. The salient difference is that last year, the Mets and Nats were even , and the Mets pulled away; this year, the Nats are firmly in control of their destiny, while the Mets are still struggling to keep their players on the field.
Losing to Greinke isn’t, unto itself, a disappointment; giving away a late lead after sending Greinke packing is unequivocally a disappointment. The Mets have battled through as much situational adversity as anyone in the National League, and of late, they’ve given away opportunities they can ill afford to pass up on. They’re still within striking distance of an October berth; but if they’re going to be in a position to threaten in October, they have to begin holding serve in decidedly winnable games. The clock is ticking on the Mets’ playoff hopes.