It's been a tough stretch for the New York Mets. Although they had a respectable road trip out west against the Dodgers, Padres, and Angels, breaking even for the ten-game swing, it came at a time when the Braves and Phillies were winning almost every game they played. Since dropping the first two games of a road series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Braves have run off 12 straight wins against second-rate opponents. Meanwhile, the Phillies have won 9 of 10. Their opponents have been stronger than Atlanta's, but they were fortunate to catch the Brewers and Angels amid long losing streaks.
Consequently, a Divisional lead that seemed almost insurmountable at the beginning of the trip has been whittled down to 5 games over Atlanta and 8.5 over the Phillies. While that was quite a bite out of the Mets' cushion, their lead over those two challengers is something any Mets fan would have gladly signed up for before the season started in April. It's all about perspective, I guess.
The Mets, under the leadership of veteran manager Buck Showalter, seem to have a good perspective on how things have gone. They understand they have no control over what their opponents do when they are not playing those teams. The Mets will be facing the Brewers starting tonight. Milwaukee recently ended their 8-game skid with a victory in their final game against the Nationals. While they have been scuffling, the Brewers' great starting pitching always makes them a formidable opponent.
Home and road series against the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins fill out the month of June for the Mets. The Astros are currently 37-24 and lead the AL West. While the Marlins languish at 27-32, they possess starting pitching that is always a threat to shut a team down. Being a spoiler is a role that the Marlins have excelled at for many years. When they have nothing to lose, the Marlins would like nothing more than to take some games from a first-place challenger. The Mets will have to keep their focus to take games from all 3 of these teams.
The Braves will play road series against the Nationals and Cubs next. To their credit, these are the sort of teams Atlanta has been fattening up on during their streak. The Mets will need to follow suit again when they hit the softer part of their schedule. While I don't see the Marlins as an easy opponent, I think it's important for the Mets to win those series against Miami. It's the only losing team the Mets will face in the last two weeks of June.
Things get tougher for Atlanta when they're home against the Dodgers and Giants and then hit the road against the Phillies at the end of June. As for the Phillies, they're playing the Marlins at home, then heading down to Washington for a 4-game set. Then it gets more challenging for them, too. They'll be heading to Texas and then San Diego before coming home to face Atlanta.
The recent schedule has greatly favored Atlanta and Philadelphia. As I've said, things will get more challenging for both clubs later in June. In the meantime, however, all the Mets can do is take care of business. While I always figured the NL East would tighten up this summer, the blazing hot streaks of their two top opponents accelerated the process to an uncomfortable level for Mets fans. I don't love it, but such is life.
Mets Twitter has been interesting to watch lately. Some fans are already panicking, with many others refusing to do that and preaching patience. I'm with the latter group. I think the Mets have shown enough in the early going that I don't believe they will collapse on us this season.
Apparently, Sal Licata incensed some superstitious fans when he declared the NL East over on SNY's Baseball Night in New York before the Mets headed west. While it seems to me a rather silly, cocky statement, I do not believe that hubris from a tv guy has any effect on how a season turns out for the ballclub you love. Sal is off the hook. Forgive the man.
Going forward, I'd like to see more consistent pitching from the Mets as all of us continue to wait for and hope for the return of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. While a .500 road trip out west was not a terrible result, the Mets were defeated by a combined score of 39-9 in their 5 losses. I know they all count the same in the standings, but I don't believe piling up blowout losses has no effect on a club. Chris Bassitt has been bad in his last two starts and 4 of his last 5 in a rather protracted slump. The Mets need more from the man, particularly until deGrom and Scherzer make it back.
It was never going to be easy for the Mets, but that's okay. I believe a club being pushed by their opponents is better prepared for the postseason. On the other hand, the Mets are 40-22. They only need to play .500 ball the rest of the way to win 90 games. If they do better than that — and I feel confident that they will — it's going to be difficult for the Braves and Phillies to catch them. Not impossible, of course, but it's hard for me to believe that those two clubs can maintain their current pace for much longer. So I'm going to keep doing my biofeedback exercises to hold my blood pressure down and keep believing in the 2022 Mets, also — even if things continue to tighten.
Please be well and take care. Let's go Mets!
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.