It’s common to hear people calling just about every game a must win, but, on most occasions, baseball games in May and June are just a small part to the larger 162 game season. However, this year for the New York Mets, it’s a different story.
Coming of a series win over the Los Angeles Angels, the Mets (18-24) will play nine of their next 13 against losing teams before having to run a gauntlet of playoff caliber teams early in the season. The only team above .500 coming up are the Milwaukee Brewers. I know they swept the Mets, but the Brewers are still only 25-19 and may be the worst team above .500.
Tonight, the Amazings open up their three game series with the San Diego Padres (16-30). The Padres rank in the bottom half of the league in almost every category, in both pitching and hitting. This series provides a huge opportunity for the Mets to get some signature wins off a team with bigger question marks in their pitching rotation than even New York has. Even if the blue-and-orange can’t get the sweep, it’s crucial to win another series and continue to inch closer to that .500 mark.
After wrapping up their six-game homestand on Thursday, the Mets will face a weekend road trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates (20-25). The Buccos have had a very up and down season that was highlighted by Starling Marte being popped for his PED use. The good news for the Pirates has been their ability to win against the best teams in baseball — they’ve claimed series wins over the Cubs, Yankees, and Nationals. The bad news, The Pirates haven’t been able to score enough runs to back up their quality pitching. In their first 45 games, the Bucs have scored a total of 169 which is an average of 3.75 per game. Low scoring games definitely sounds good to Terry Collins right about now.
Upon returning to Citi Field, the Mets will have Milwaukee waiting for the four game series. Just two weeks ago, the Mets had taken the first two games from the San Francisco Giants before losing a heart breaking game on Sunday. Then, the Brewers took full advantage of the limping New York team and scored 29 runs in just three games and swept the Mets clean out of Miller Park. But this time around the Mets will have some potential to come into the series on a hot note and take full advantage of another undermanned staff and bullpen. Milwaukee ranks dead last in opposing batting average (.272) and with the Mets starting to win games independent of the long ball, things seem to be looking up.
Finally, there will be another three-game series with the Pirates, this time at Citi field, before concluding the winnable stretch. On June 6 the Mets will head to Texas to face the Rangers, a ball club that is fresh off a 10-game winning streak. With their ace Yu Darvish keeping a mediocre offense afloat, it will be the Mets who are tasked with scratching enough runs across to run out of Texas with at least a split of the two game series. Next it will be a four game series with the seemingly unbeatable Atlanta Braves. For the team that finished tied for second to last in the major leagues in wins in 2016, the Braves have won three series in a row and sit in second place in the NL East standings. The Mets better beware because if they couldn’t beat Atlanta when they were bad just imagine how it’ll go when the Braves are hot.
Now, as the second full week of June is starting, so is the 11 game stretch that all Mets fans have been waiting for since the schedules were made. First up, the defending World Champion Cubs for three games. The Mets have had great success over Chicago the last few years, largely thanks to the power pitching the Mets have been able to toss out there. But this year NYM doesn’t have all that power, instead they’ve relied on guys like Tommy Milone and Adam Wilk to fill out the rest of the staring rotation. If the Mets aren’t careful the middle of the pack Cubs may just get hot at their expense. After the champs leave town, the Washington Nationals will enter for four games. It’s needless to say that the Nats are a powerhouse. They rank first in the league in runs scored (246), batting average (.274), and slugging percentage (.471), while also boasting two early on MVP candidates in Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. The series between these two rivals is already 4-2 Nats and if the Mets want to have any chance of making up ground in the division, these series is the time to do it. And finally to conclude this hellish stretch is a four game road series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Another one of baseball’s powerhouses, the Dodgers are currently seven games above .500 (26-19) but sit in third place in a strong NL West. With an ace like Clayton Kershaw it doesn’t take too much run support to end a game, and with Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger playing lights out, the Dodgers appear to clicking on all cylinders.
So if the Mets want to get themselves out of the dog house and back into playoff contention it’s going to have to start tonight. I know they won two out of three against the Angels, but just like when they had the Nationals on the ropes for a sweep, the Mets didn’t just let it slip through their fingertips, they were full blown smacked in the face in the final game. And that shouldn’t happen to playoff teams. Then again, half the stuff that happens to the Mets doesn’t happen to playoff teams.