We’ve been talking a lot about the Mets’ soft September schedule, and for good reason. All contending teams dream about being in first place and having the league’s weakest remaining slate of regular-season games.
However, this stretch was looking more like a nightmare through the first few series. It included a 4-2 road trip between Pittsburgh and Miami, but that performance was sandwiched by a pair of three-game losing streaks, which started to make everyone panic.
The worst of all, though, was a terrible showing at home against the Chicago Cubs, who came to town and swept a three-game set from the Amazins. In case you forgot, it was freakin’ ugly, folks. Through the first five months of the season, New York had compiled just two three-game losing streaks. Now, they had lost three straight on two separate occasions in the span of a couple of weeks.
That Cubs series looked particularly bad because, for the first time in a while, the boys just looked flat. They badly needed their swagger back with the Braves breathing down their neck. Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened during a four-game set against the Pirates at Citi Field.
When Pittsburgh came to town, you had to think the expectation was for the Mets to at least take three-of-four from the Buccos, and ideally, complete a sweep. It was a little touch-and-go in the late innings on two occasions, but that’s what New York has done.
Now, their magic number to clinch a postseason berth is two, and they head to Milwaukee to face the Brewers with a one-game lead in the NL East over Atlanta. Max Scherzer will be activated off the injured list to face the Brewers on Monday. The combination of a Mets win and Brewers loss would clinch New York’s first postseason berth since 2016.
So, there’s plenty of business to take care of over the next few days.
What was the difference in the Mets’ performance against the Pirates when compared to that debacle against the Cubs? Well, for one thing, they were consistent in getting runs on the board. New York averaged 5.75 runs per game over the past four contests, and it wasn’t skewed because of a couple of blowouts. The Mets scored at least four runs in each game, pushing across five-plus runs on three occasions.
It’s not as if they performed that much better with runners in scoring position, though. However, the bar was set pretty low after facing the Cubs.
While getting embarrassed by Chicago, the Mets went just 1-for-16 (.063 batting average) with runners in scoring position, leaving 21 men stranded. Against the Pirates, they went 11-for-52 (.211) with runners on second and third, stranding 41 overall.
That number isn’t going to get any gold stars worth hanging on your fridge, but it’s a marked improvement from the miserable performance they just struggled through. The biggest difference between these two series was how the Mets consistently jumped out in front to get an early lead.
The Cubs outscored New York 8-0 through the first two innings in their head-to-head matchup. Against the Pirates, the Mets outscored Pittsburgh 8-1 in this situation. Manager Buck Showalter’s club scored within the first two frames three times in their last four games after failing to do so five times in six tries against Miami and Chicago.
Scoring early is something the Mets have done consistently throughout 2022, and it changes the whole complexion of a game. It gives the starting pitcher an immediate cushion to work with. And if they slip up along the way, the offense isn’t always feeling the pressure of looking at a late-game deficit.
This happened twice against Pittsburgh. New York had a 4-1 lead after seven innings on Friday, but the bullpen halted a Pirates rally at two runs to secure a 4-3 victory. When Jacob deGrom gave up a three-run homer to Oneil Cruz on Sunday, it was just a tie game. Four runs in the bottom of the eighth helped secure the sweep.
I’m not going to lie, it’s been exhausting watching the Mets bounce back and forth from looking completely flat to be the team we’ve watched from April through August. It looked like they had gotten themselves back on track during their most recent road trip. But of course, that was followed by getting swept by Chicago.
Now that they’re on the road in Milwaukee — who, unlike New York’s recent opponents, has something to play for. It’s time to keep this momentum flowing. Let’s see if the Mets can make that happen as October continues creeping closer.
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