Entering play tonight in Oakland, the Mets are 1.5 games up on the Braves, with 11 games to play. With a playoff spot clinched, there are three goals for the Mets over these last two weeks: stay healthy, clinch the division (and thus gain a bye through the Wild Card round), and line up their pitching staff for the playoffs. While the health goal is the most important, there isn’t much to discuss in that regard, besides hoping that Brandon Nimmo’s quad is as a-ok as he says, and to wrap Jeff McNeil in bubblewrap.
But the other two goals are pretty closely intertwined. If the Mets want to bypass the first round of the playoffs, they are going to need the best from their starters down the stretch. Thankfully, those goals appear to be, more or less, aligned in the way that the rotation breaks down for the remainder of the season.
For this weekend in the Bay Area, the Mets will throw Chris Bassitt, Jacob deGrom, and Max Scherzer against the A’s, the team tied for the second worst record in baseball and owners of the worst offense in the game. These will, hopefully, be low impact starts for the Mets’ top three starters.
After an off-day Monday, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker will face the pesky Marlins, a team that loves to play spoiler and seems to give the Mets more headaches than the 25th ranked offense should. This series is bookended by yet another off-day, giving the Mets’ top three starters two extra days of rest before the crucial series in Atlanta.
With Braves’ starter Spencer Strider having his start against the Phillies skipped this weekend due to oblique soreness, it is unknown if the Mets will line up to face him next weekend. The Mets would prefer missing him, as Strider has won two of his three starts against the Mets thus far in 2022. Due to Strider’s injury, it is unknown who the Braves will throw against the Mets, but the Mets have Bassitt, deGrom, and Scherzer lined up. Due to the two days off in the week, the Mets could even rearrange their rotation ahead of this series, if they wanted to put deGrom and Scherzer back to back to begin the series.
Depending how that series plays out, the series against the Nationals takes on a few different roles. If the Mets have the division in hand after the series in Atlanta, the Mets’ first playoff game will be October 11, six days after the season ends, which gives them plenty of time to adjust the rotation however they see fit. Similarly, if they lose the lead of the division to the Braves by more than three games, they can also do whatever they need to do to prepare their rotation for the weekend Wild Card series.
The trickiest scenario would be if the Mets and Braves are still battling it out for the division lead in the final three games of the season. However, even if this scenario, the Mets are in relatively good position. If the team decides to keep the rotation in its current order going into the Braves series, the Nationals would face Carrasco, Walker, and Bassitt, leaving deGrom and Scherzer to kick off the Wild Card series, with an extra day or rest, on Friday, or lined up for the Division Series with almost an extra week of rest.
With the combination of off-days, an already well-lined up rotation, and eight of the final 11 games against sub-.500 teams, the Mets have put themselves in the best position possible to both take the division crown and have their best pitchers start crucial playoff games. Hopefully, the Phillies give the Mets some help this weekend and make next weekend’s series in Atlanta less important than it seems at the moment.