ATLANTA – Before the weekend that would actually fix National League East, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso evaluated whether he had ever played in a series with so much at stake. Since his debut in 2019, the Mets have not made the postseason, finishing at least nine games each year, and so this would certainly be the biggest of his MLB career. Twice he drove his Florida Gators to the College World Series.
Based on that experience, he said that when so much is at stake, less is more. “Smaller thoughts equate to big results.”
Maybe the Mets let their thoughts get too big this weekend in Atlanta, because the results were too small in the end. In three games, they only got four more base hits, left 22 runners on base, and went a total of 5 out of 18 with runners in scoring position. Dissatisfied with the production and their options at DH, the Mets called in Francisco Álvarez, MLB.com’s 20-year-old top prospect, to make a pressure-filled stage debut, only for him to remain unsuccessful in the crucial series. The pitchers that are supposed to be with the lights out may have cracked, but it was the formation that crumbled.
After spending 175 days in first place this season, they will head to the final two games behind the Atlanta Braves in charge. A single victory over the weekend would give them a chance to control their own destiny. Now, to win the division, they will have to wipe out the Washington Nationals and hope the Miami Marlins can wipe out the Braves. Anything less, and they’ll go straight to the wild card round as the Braves wait for the split streak.
“The hardest part?” Shortstop Francisco Lindor said after Sunday’s 5-3 defeat in which he went 0 for 5. “That we lost.”
Defending champions weekend flexibility
People will talk about how the Mets were 10.5 games more in the division on June 1, a high score that was reduced over the next three months. But they haven’t collapsed – going 63-44 since – as much as they’ve been caught. In the same time frame, the Braves were 76-32, a pace of 114 wins and seconds only to the Los Angeles Dodgers in all baseball.
But I guess it’s a cold comfort as you watch what started as an enchanted season slip away in the final stretch. The Mets have gone from comedians to easy favorites in a single ambitious offseason. With a new general manager, a new manager, a vaunted new clubhouse culture, and the kind of payroll that made people in the Yankees accuse people of buying rings, the Mets boldly entered the season. Fans may not have admitted it out loud – they saw a lesser version of the team go from top spot in mid-August last year to skip post-season altogether – but the 2022 Mets were one of the big baseball teams. And for most of the season they played like that.
Zoom out and you will see a team with 98 wins and a chance to have a few more. The Mets could end up with 100+ for the first time since 1988 and only the fourth time in franchise history. Hosting the new three-game wildcard series will test their launch plans at the start of what will be a grueling month if they’re lucky; but it’s still their top spot after the season in six years.
“What I have reminded them and will remind them is how good they are,” said manager Buck Showalter. “And what a good year it has been and we will still have a chance to achieve their goals.”
The power of the Mets is in short supply
Zoom in, though, and there’s cause for concern.
Good starts from big pitchers also include some bad shots. You’re hoping to miss the zone, or sneak one from the hitter, or have him waste it in a pop-up. But sometimes you get beaten on your bad fields. Here’s what the best teams do: punish mistakes.
It takes some luck to win a World Series like the Braves did last year, knocking down giants like the Dodgers and Houston Astros along the way. But it also takes the ability to hone all the opportunities that elite pitchers allow. Sure it’s a bit reductionist, but home runs are a terribly efficient way to make the most of mistakes.
The difference in the National League East this season will likely end up being just a handful of pitches thrown by the top three Mets pitchers in three games in Atlanta. The Braves line-up turned three home runs against Jacob deGrom (two Cy Young awards) on Friday night, two home runs against Max Scherzer (three Cy Young awards) on Saturday night and two home runs against a couple of pitchers on Sunday between a bad start. good by Chris Bassitt. In all, the Braves beat the Mets seven to three in the sweep that overturned the fortunes of the two teams. Shortstop Dansby Swanson and first baseman Matt Olson both scored at home in all three games.
That dichotomy is not a fluke. While the Braves have the second-highest number of home runs in baseball this year – and the most since that key date of June 1 – the Mets are 16. Their offense is built around baseball’s second-best base percentage, which works best. if you don’t block guys who get along well. And their wins are built around better than good starts from deGrom and Scherzer and delivering them to their feeling of a closer, Edwin Diaz, who only made one appearance over the weekend and never had a chance to protect a lead. .
Perhaps the most sobering part is simply the reminder that even a team with 98 wins can be wiped out – specially when he runs into another club of the playoff caliber. The big picture won’t save you in a post-season streak, you need to live up to the occasion. The Mets may cite their determination, resilience, and all that they have gained so far, but remember, the rewards will be more serious than the one they just lost.
“It was intense,” Alonso said of his first taste of near-post-season baseball, “but I feel we have a pretty good idea of what October will be like.”