October has begun, and it's like we're in a whole new world. The Mets will play more than three games this month with postseason baseball on the horizon. After hoping for the first few months of the season that these final matchups with Washington would be meaningful, Mets fans can rejoice in their meaninglessness with the division championship already clinched last weekend. Perhaps even more bizarre, this preview column is not sponsored by FanDuel.
Now that we're no longer being watched over by corporate overlords and their expansive advertising budgets, it's time to really go off the rails for the last series of the regular season. That means I get to complain about how the Mets acted like the games don't matter anymore after they clinched the division last Saturday. Sure, you can't blame the team for playing a "hangover" lineup last Sunday during the series finale in Cincinnati. If I had my way, the champagne would stay on ice until after the regular season was over and everybody had four days off work, but everyone parties when they clinch a spot in the postseason.
My real problem was how Terry Collins threw out another lineup full of reserves during Thursday's surprise day game. The turnaround was a quick one, especially following the brutal four-hour loss on Wednesday night, but with home-field advantage hanging in the balance, I expected a more potent batting order. Instead, the Mets were shutout by the Phillies to complete an embarrassing sweep.
The good news is that history has been kind to teams without home-field advantage in the NLDS. You can even argue that this Mets team might be better off starting the the series in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, it would be more fun to see the Mets open the postseason at home in front of a sure-to-be-raucous Citi Field crowd. It's too bad the team isn't being managed that way.
That editorial turned out to be overwhelmingly gloomy, so let's look back at some Mets vs. Nationals highlights this season. After all, New York can still earn that home-field advantage for the NLDS if it wins all three games this weekend (or if the Dodgers lose their games).
April 6: Mets 3, Nationals 1
You might not have thought that Bartolo Colon deserved the Opening Day start, and you might have thought that the Mets didn't have a chance to win the NL East this year. It turns out that Colon matched up to Washington ace Max Scherzer quite well while propelling the Mets to their first win of the campaign.
May 1: Mets 4, Nationals 0
Matt Harvey defeated Washington for the first time this year two days after that Colon start, but he might have been even more dominant on the first day of May, when the rivalry shifted to Citi Field. The right-hander pitched seven scoreless frames while Michael Cuddyer hit a home run and Daniel Murphy added a three-RBI double to give the Mets the runs they needed. Although Harvey only posted three strikeouts, the defense behind him was excellent.
July 21: Mets 7, Nationals 2
While the Mets' offense scuffled for much of June and July, the team still managed to stay within striking distance of Washington due to starting pitching and the Nationals' own issues. When the two teams met after the All-Star break for their third series of the season, it was considered a controversial decision for Collins to remove Jacob deGrom from the game after six innings and insert pinch-hitter Eric Campbell with New York trailing 2-1. I'm still confused at the skepticism about what seemed like an obvious choice. Did people expect deGrom to pitch so well that the Nationals would lose a run? Anyway, good ole Soup was in the midst of an extremely unlucky campaign, but he came through big time in that spot.
July 31: Mets 2, Nationals 1 (12 innings)
You know how the story goes by now. The Mets had just traded for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to boost the offense, and the team was nipping at Washington's heels. But then, out of nowhere, that LOLMets feeling started to creep in again. Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez appeared to be heading to New York on July 29, but the deal fell apart at the last second and left Wilmer Flores crying on the field. The next afternoon, the Mets somehow blew a 7-1 lead to San Diego. Everything was going in the wrong direction until July 31. Not only did the Mets shock the baseball world by landing Yoenis Cespedes right before the trade deadline, but Flores, who appeared destined for western pastures just two nights before, hit a walk-off blast against the Nationals that night.
August 2: Mets 5, Nationals 2
That Flores home run was quite the moment, but you know what they say: Momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. It's a good thing, then, that the Mets have so many good starting pitchers. After one of the most dramatic days in team history on Friday, the Mets beat Washington again on Saturday to move into a tie atop the NL East. On Sunday night, in front of a national television audience, New York completed the sweep thanks to three home runs in the third inning and a brilliant Noah Syndergaard outing. With first place all to themselves, it truly felt like the postseason was the Mets' destiny.
September 8: Mets 8, Nationals 7
The Nationals had taken plenty of New York' s punches at this point, but they still stood a chance of coming back and winning the division when the Mets and their four-game lead came to town for a three-game set in early September. Washington led by multiple runs in every game, but each one slipped through the team's fingers. When historians look back on the 2015 season, they'll says that the NL East was won when the Mets overcame a 7-1 deficit during the middle game of this series. Kirk Nieuwenhuis capped off the most dramatic Mets victory of the year with a home run off of Jonathan Papelbon that gave New York the lead in the eighth inning.
If all those highlights don't get you excited for some Mets postseason baseball, then I don't know what will. I know I'm revved up and ready to go, but it would be nice if the Mets took care of business in these final three games before the start of the championship tournament. It would be far-fetched to say that how the team does in this series will affect its performance for the rest of the month, but more wins are always more fun, so let's root on these Mets hard and whip them out of this post-celebration malaise. Here is your pitching schedule.
|Date||Time||Television||Nationals Probable Starter||Mets Probable Starter|
|October 2, 2015||7:10 PM||SNY||Gio Gonzalez||Noah Syndergaard|
|October 3, 2015||7:10 PM||SNY||Max Scherzer||Matt Harvey|
|October 4, 2015||3:10 PM||SNY||Tanner Roark||Jacob deGrom|
Remember, we're also likely to see Steven Matz pitch between four and five relief innings at some point this weekend. I suppose he'll piggyback on the Harvey start unless Syndergaard implodes tonight.
Prediction: Mets win one of three.