Make no mistake: that was a must-win game for the Mets

by Paul West

You can’t win a division in April, but you can lose one in April.

This is a classic baseball aphorism; of course, it’s also nonsense. If the Mets reclaim their 2015 NL East title by a single game, it will technically be as much due to one of their early April comebacks as to any other game. If they miss the playoffs by a single game, it will be as much by any of their recent snooze-fests as by any other loss.

Michael Conforto hit one of the biggest home runs of the year for the Mets tonight in Philly. (Credit: Matt Slocum, AP)

Of course, with that said, momentum does matter–which, admittedly, is a truth to which the above saying alludes. It’s also what makes this weekend’s series so important, and why tonight’s comeback victory was as big as any win they’ve had so far.

The Mets, in the blink of an eye, have fallen from securely in first place to fourth in a four-team race separated by a total of 2.5 games. They’ve just lost Jay Bruce to paternity leave, and setup man Hansel Robles to the disabled list. The last place Miami Marlins beat the first place Atlanta Braves, and the Washington Nationals are in Arizona to face the NL-leading Diamondbacks. And Mets get to spend this weekend in Philadelphia, a hitter’s park where they’ve fared somewhat well in recent years, to face a Phillies team who’s leapfrogged into second place.

As with their enormous comeback win over the Nationals a few weeks (seemingly months) ago, this was the kind of tourniquet victory which can bring good vibrations and confidence back a to a team in need of both. They were on the verge of wasting another resurgent, if not quite dominant, quality outing from Steven Matz, when the struggling Michael Conforto–from the bottom third of the order–blasted a go-ahead run into the Philly stands after Wilmer Flores (ahem) opened the top of the ninth with a single. The Mets get to finish the weekend behind their two aces, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, with more than a puncher’s chance to make up the ground they lost during their recent slump. This is a team whose record behind their aces was significantly better than behind the rest of their rotation, which makes tonight’s win all the more important.

Yes, it’s still early May, and yes, it’s only one game. But intangibles matter, momentum is real in sports, and if the Mets return to the postseason, this game will be one they look back on as a reason.

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