The Mets were flying high on their way to Atlanta for a crucial three-game set over the weekend. They had just snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat Wednesday night with a thrilling win thanks to Eduardo Escobar. Coinciding with a Braves loss, they nudged themselves a game ahead in the NL East.
After three games at Truist Park, the mood around this team (especially on #MetsTwitter) is quite different. In the team’s biggest series of the 2022 regular season, they got swept and are now two games back in the NL East.
The real gut punch was manager Buck Showalter specifically rearranging his rotation so Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer could start the first two games. You love it from the standpoint of aggressiveness. But since the Mets couldn’t capitalize, it felt more like a wasted opportunity.
Brandon Nimmo summed it up perfectly after Saturday night’s 4-2 loss:
Brandon Nimmo was asked about the Mets losing with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer on back-to-back nights:
"Feels terrible. Those are our guys. Those are our best shots, and they stuffed them in our face. It doesn't feel good." pic.twitter.com/WY3rQQPkwu
— SNY (@SNYtv) October 2, 2022
In watching, thinking, and writing about the Mets over the years, I’ve tried to be equal parts optimistic and realistic. There’s no way around it, though — this weekend wasn’t very fun. Many people were talking about New York potentially celebrating an NL East title on Sunday night after sweeping Atlanta, and now look where they are.
Does this mean the rest of October is going to be terrible, though? Come on, folks — no way. Do the Mets deserve to win the division after this weekend and their stumbling at various points in September? No. I’m certainly not the only person with that opinion, either.
It’s not like going through the Wild Card round is the worst thing in the world. This isn’t ideal and everyone could use a few days to rest up, but it is what it is. The overall mission doesn’t change. The only thing that does is the manner in which they try to accomplish it.
New York has the ability to turn the page quickly from this weekend and get ready for the postseason. We’ve seen them do it countless times over the past few months. You know, like how they rattled off six straight wins after getting swept by the Cubs.
But how was this past weekend a learning experience for the Mets? There are three takeaways they’ll hopefully put in their pockets while continuing to move forward.
Takeaway no. 1: Experiencing this series
New York is already in the playoffs, but this obviously had huge implications as to which seed they’ll ultimately settle into. During Friday night’s game, SNY’s Steve Gelbs gave us some good perspective. He spoke to Nimmo beforehand and the outfielder told Gelbs he hadn’t felt these kinds of nerves and butterflies in a long time.
If you look at the Mets’ active roster, there isn’t a ton of playoff experience on it. DeGrom is still around from New York’s 2015 National League championship squad. Other than him and the unique resume of Terrance Gore, it looks like Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Naquin, and Scherzer are the only other players who have been on a team that’s gone deep into the playoffs.
So, merely having a chance to see what a series like this feels like before the postseason starts is valuable.
Takeaway no. 2: Seeing Atlanta rise to the occasion
The Braves have won the NL East each season since 2018. Players have come and gone during that time, but a large part of their core has been intact throughout. This is a battle-tested group that knows how to handle these types of situations.
We saw Atlanta put everything together throughout the weekend: good starting pitching, timely hitting, and the bullpen shutting the door.
Scherzer and deGrom didn’t give New York performances many of us were expecting. It was far from their best work, but they both exited while the Mets still had a chance to win. The offense just couldn’t do anything.
A full team effort is needed for success under the brightest of lights. The Mets know that, but they also got an intimate view of what it looks like.
Takeaway no. 3: That feeling of failure
We already discussed how much of New York’s active roster doesn’t have experience making deep runs into October. This also means many have no idea how much it hurts to come up short.
I don’t want to compare this series to the postseason. It was a huge set of games, but it’s still the regular season. There’s a switch that flips in October that makes it all different. Regardless of that, getting knocked on their butts might not be a bad thing. From what we’ve seen with this club all year, they respond well when they get knocked down.
The benefit of feeling this now as opposed to the postseason is they get to keep playing instead of going home for the winter. Bottle up these feelings of failure and disappointment and use them as fuel for the playoffs.
The true mark of good teams isn’t winning every single battle. Finding a way to win the war is most important. The Mets lost this battle with the Braves. It’ll all but likely lead to them losing the war of capturing an NL East title. And that stings.
Luckily for them, though, another war starts on October 7th.