by Paul West
After an inspired second-half run which vaulted them from presumed dead to the upper levels of the NL wild card race, the Mets have given away one game after another–each loss seemingly more vexing than the last–to the Braves and Cubs, and slipped back behind the Phillies and the Brewers. They’re still right in the thick of things, but their grip on their playoff destiny has become more tenuous and could slip from their grasp if they let the Cubs complete a road sweep at Citi Field tonight.
With ace Jacob deGrom on the mound, the Mets face the most indispensable game of their season so far.
The Cubs have had trouble on the road all season, especially in night games. Letting them walk away with a sweep would not just cost the Mets in the standings; it would be an enormous morale boost for the Cubs, and an enormous morale setback for a Mets team that had just gotten people to believe in them–and more importantly, come to fully believe in themselves. It could also push the Mets back to five back of the Cubs, who hold the second wild card position, whereas a win would pull them to within three. This two-games-in-one swing would loom especially large as the calendar flips over to September, and it would moreover push them behind the Phillies and Nationals, whom they play in the next three series.
On the other hand: if the Mets can recenter themselves and win tonight, it might help re-gather the momentum they’ll want when traveling to the three series which will make or break their playoff hopes. The Brewers and Phillies are both idle today, and the Mets have a game in hand on the Brewers–a game they’ll play tonight, with a chance to tie them in the standings. They’ll face future Hall of Famer Jon Lester, who’s been hittable at times this year, and the fact of Lester being a lefty should hopefully play into the hands of Pete Alonso, Amed Rosario, JD Davis, and even Jeff McNeil.
Either way: the season is on the line. The Mets mowed down opponents when nobody expected them to win. Now that they’re back on the radar, they’ll have to avoid squandering their magical run.