April games may not seem crucial for October, but the New York Mets have a unique opportunity to establish an early lead in the NL East.
The New York Mets are off to a perfect start in 2019. Jacob deGrom outdueled Max Scherzer and carried the Mets to a win on Opening Day. On Saturday, the bats picked up right-hander Noah Syndergaard who didn’t have his best stuff. On Sunday, Zack Wheeler and company will look to complete the sweep of the Washington Nationals.
Two wins in March shouldn’t elicit any ridiculous overreactions, but it is a good sign for the coming weeks. The Mets play 19 of their first 24 games against National League East opponents. This provides the perfect opportunity to jump out to an early lead in the NL East with wins against division rivals.
That being said, a fast start means nothing without consistent play throughout the season. Mets fans know this all too well from the deflating 2018 campaign.
Winning the NL East won’t be easy in 2019. The Miami Marlins pose little to no threat, but the rest of the division will compete for the division crown.
The Washington Nationals undeniably took a step back this season. Losing Bryce Harper puts a dent into the middle of Washington’s order, but they should still be dangerous offensively with the likes of Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner. The starting rotation is dominant at the top with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.
Despite the strong rotation, the Nats’ Achilles heel was exposed by the Mets on Saturday. The bullpen is weak and the Mets should try to capitalize while they can. New York will play another three-game series against the Nationals at Citi Field starting April 4.
The Atlanta Braves are the reigning NL East champions, but it’s fair to question whether or not they can repeat in 2019. The Braves are still a very young squad and could be susceptible to a “hangover” from their emotional 2018 season. The Mets will travel to Atlanta on April 11 for a four-game set with the Braves.
Perhaps the scariest team in the NL East are the hated Philadelphia Phillies. Philly gave “stupid money” to the aforementioned Harper and added veteran players like David Robertson and Andrew McCutchen. Not to mention, the Phillies acquired catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. Once upon a time, the Mets were interested in acquiring Realmuto.
The Phillies are stacked with talent, but it doesn’t always click right away after a big offseason. Perhaps the Mets can capitalize on a Philly squad that hasn’t hit its stride. The rivals will face off six times in April.
The Nationals, Braves, and Phillies represent the Mets’ main competition this season. They can show the rest of the division they mean business right off the bat.
It’s important (and sometimes impossible) to avoid overreacting to the first month of the season. We all remember the Mets’ remarkable start to the 2018 season. Manager Mickey Callaway‘s squad burst out to an 11-1 record last season while going 8-0 against NL East opponents during that streak.
Of course, we all know what happened afterward. The Mets stalled out in June and posted a 5-21 record in the month. New York never recovered from their June swoon and would finish the 2018 season fourth in the division.
What does that mean for the 2019 squad? It simply means that a fast start isn’t everything. It can give the team an early advantage over the rest of the division. But no one wins a divisional crown in April.
This Might Be Different
Alonso represents the young prospect that can become a mainstay in the middle of the order. Although there was some speculation that the Mets would keep Alonso in the minors to manipulate his service time, the team opted to put the first baseman on the Opening Day roster.
So far, so good. Through the first two games, Alonso is 4-for-8 with 2 RBI. He has all the tools to become a dangerous hitter at the plate. He has pop in his bat, but he’s far more than a pure power hitter. He can go gap-to-gap and he just might find himself in the thick of the Rookie of the Year race.
Putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster will help the Mets to start fast, but Cano could be the veteran presence that allows the Mets to maintain consistency throughout the season. Plain and simple, Cano is a professional hitter who understands how to command the middle of the order.
Add those two into the lineup with an older Amed Rosario and a fully healthy Michael Conforto and the Mets might have something special. The Metropolitans have a unique chance to gain the upper hand in what should be a competitive division. However, the 2018 season showed us that a fast start isn’t everything.