Following six months of injuries, drama, hope, despair, and hope again, there are only three games left in the Mets’ 2016 regular season campaign. Thanks to the club’s resiliency over the past five weeks, we get to use that "regular season" qualifier. There’s a really good chance that New York plays at least one postseason game this year, and that’s awesome, because not a lot of people thought that would be the case in late August.
But first, there is business to attend to. Even if St. Louis and San Francisco win the rest of their games, the Mets can clinch a postseason berth with victories in two out of the three games in Philadelphia this weekend. As we saw in the four battles at Citi Field last week, these Phillies are still going to fight as hard as ever to deny the Mets what they really, really want, even if that fight ends up fruitless for the City of Brotherly Love.
The Mets historically have not done well during the last weekend of the season with the postseason on the line, so let’s just pretend that the postseason started already and that New York needs to win two of three to advance. No problem, right? This franchise has done pretty well in opening-round series through the years.
The guy the Mets really have to look out for this weekend is Maikel Franco. Although he still only holds a .643 OPS against New York this year, he hit home runs in three consecutive games last weekend while driving in eight of Philadelphia’s 23 runs for the series. The 24-year-old is having a disappointing campaign compared to last year’s, when he looked like a sure-fire future star. The bloom is off the rose a little bit with Franco hitting .251/.305/.428 entering play on Thursday, but he’s still got 25 home runs and a very bright future. Another big series against the Mets would give Phillies fans some warm, fuzzy feelings going into the offseason.
No matter what happens during the next three games, Phillies fans will feel good about Ryan Howard’s contract finally expiring this winter. It turns out all the nerds were right about the mega deal he signed back in 2010. Now those nerds are the guys running the Phillies! But that’s no matter to Howard. The veteran slugger has been pretty good lately while playing as a part-time first baseman. After hitting .154/.214/.353 in the first half of the season, he’s hit .263/.331/.610 in the second half with 24 home runs overall. Sunday ought to be his last game in a Phillies uniform, so he’ll probably be in the starting lineup for a proper send-off.
Of course, Howard isn’t the only veteran left-handed batter to look like he’s been revived. New York’s Jay Bruce has gone from zero to hero in almost no time at all. It all started with his pinch-hit home run last Saturday against the Phillies and has continued with home runs in two straight games in Miami. During the five-game stretch, Bruce has four extra-base hits and just one strikeout. Those numbers should earn him some serious playing time in the postseason as long as he doesn’t relapse in Philadelphia.
Curtis Granderson is also getting in on the act with at least one hit and one walk in six of his last seven games. The hot streak only escalated on Wednesday night when the Grandy Man reached base in all five of his plate appearances to raise his on-base percentage to .396 for September. Add in how amazing Asdrubal Cabrera has been since returning from the disabled list in late August, and the Mets are starting to look like a team’s whose offense can do some damage in October. The veteran shortstop has shown no signs of slowing down with three two-hit games in a row from Sunday to Tuesday.
|Date||Time||Television||Mets Probable Starter||Phillies Probable Starter|
|September 30, 2016||7:05 PM||SNY||Robert Gsellman||Alec Asher|
|October 1, 2016||1:05 PM||FOX||Bartolo Colon||Phil Klein|
|October 2, 2016||3:05 PM||SNY||Noah Syndergaard||Jerad Eickhoff|
Important stats: 21.2 IP, 9 K, 4 BB, 0 HR, 1.66 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 0.97 WHIP
Favorite pitches: two-seam fastball (90 mph), curveball (80 mph), changeup (81 mph), four-seam fastball (90 mph)
Asher will be making his first start since the Mets scored four runs off of him (albeit all unearned) in five innings last Saturday night. As a contact-oriented pitcher who doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, Asher is bound to let up some home runs in his major league career, even if that hasn’t happened already. With the way the Mets have been hitting the ball lately, the young right-hander will have to be on top of his game to escape 2016 with a big bagel in the home run column.
Mets opponent: Robert Gsellman is slated for Friday night, but the Mets could have used Bartolo Colon in this spot in order to keep him on full rest for a possible Wild Card game on Wednesday. It turns out that Terry Collins sticks with Gsellman, who’ll be working to build on the finest start of his big league career. The Mets didn’t really need him to work seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and two walks in last Sunday’s 17-0 rout of Philadelphia, but it was awesome to see nevertheless. If Gsellman has another outing like that in this series, fans will have a lot more confidence in the potential postseason rotation.
Important stats: 15.1 IP, 16 K, 7 BB, 2 HR, 8.22 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 1.70 WHIP
Favorite pitches: two-seam fastball (92 mph), four-seam fastball (91 mph), slider (86 mph)
The Phillies have already shut down Jake Thompson and Vince Velasquez for the season, and that means that Saturday will be a bullpen game for Philadelphia. This should present a fun opportunity for the Mets to get one step closer to the postseason, but you know what they say about trying to predict baseball. Although Klein is mostly a relief pitcher nowadays, he has made three starts before in his major league career. Two came with Texas in 2015 and one was this August with the Phillies. In that game, the Youngstown State alumnus allowed four runs in five innings against San Francisco.
Mets opponent: Colon was absolutely shelled by the Marlins in Monday’s emotional contest, so he’ll be looking to get back on track this weekend in a game that could clinch a postseason berth for the Mets. The silver lining from Monday is that the sexy one threw just 47 pitches, so he’ll be rested up and ready to go for this all-important outing.
Important stats: 191.1 IP, 159 K, 41 BB, 30 HR, 3.72 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 1.17 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), curveball (75 mph), slider (82 mph), two-seam fastball (91 mph)
As one of Philadelphia’s most consistent hurlers this season, Eickhoff has handled the Mets pretty well with a 3.00 ERA in 18 innings spread over three starts. He’s also coming off of a very strong September in which he’s posted a 2.73 ERA in five outings. That figure might be even lower if his game on Tuesday wasn’t delayed by rain. Before the weather interfered, Eickhoff had five strikeouts, zero walks, and one run allowed in four innings against the Braves with just 45 pitches thrown. At that rate, he might have had his longest outing of the season.
Mets opponent: After having his most recent start pushed back due to strep throat, Syndergaard looked perfectly healthy on Tuesday, as he dominated Miami with eight strikeouts, no walks, and one run allowed in six innings of a Mets rout. He’s scheduled to take the mound next on Sunday, but if the Mets can win the first two games of this series to clinch a home game in the Wild Card round, they’ll probably make other plans and have Syndergaard pitch in the postseason contest on Wednesday.
Jeurys Familia wrapped up the Mets’ latest victory with his 50th save of the season, making him the 13th big league pitcher to reach the milestone. He’s also now tops among hurlers from the Dominican Republic for saves during a single season. We’ve talked before about how Familia hasn’t been as dominant this year as he can be — his 30 walks and 1.22 WHIP are pretty high for an "elite" closer — but the accomplishment is awesome regardless of that. Familia is already in the conversation for best Mets relief pitcher of all time, but he can cement that status with some strong work in a postseason run.
Familia’s 50 saves are impressive, but they might not be as unlikely as the 37 that Jeanmar Gomez has racked up. Not only did Gomez earn his saves while playing for a team that won just 70 games, but he wasn’t even ordained as Philadelphia’s closer until spring training was over with. The 28-year-old Venezuelan hurler held onto his job despite a strong season from Hector Neris, but he’d probably lose it if the season kept going for another week or two. That’s because Gomez has been terrible lately, with at least one run given up in six of his last seven outings. That’s helped his ERA grow from 2.97 on August 31 to 4.85 today, so it will be interesting if Phillies skipper Pete Mackanin turns to him in a big spot this weekend.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.