History will record it as another case of Mets-ian fortune. A Mets team that still might win 100 games blowing the NL East on the last weekend of the season. A Mets team that at one point was 10.5 games ahead of the Braves. A Mets team that really only had to win one game of three in White Flight County, which would have given them the season tiebreaker and only needing a couple wins against the Nationals at home to round out the season and skip the Wild-Card Round.
In truth, the Braves have been an unstoppable force ever since June 1, playing at a 114-win pace for the past four months (77-32). The Mets have actually done well to hold the Braves off this long, considering the rate and amount of wins the Braves have greedily gobbled down (64-44, a 96-win pace). Any other team would have been lost in the wake and watched Atlanta disappear over the horizon long ago.
But that’s not how it will be remembered, because it’s the Mets. It’s not the Queens Siders’ fault, but these things just tend to happen to them. Even when it’s not the Mets’ fault, it’s still the Mets’ aura. Especially when the Mets had it lined up the way they want it, the way they have it lined up to win all the games they need in October.
The Mets rolled into Georgia with Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Chris Bassitt all in a pretty row. These are their three best starters, and there’s a dropoff after that. The aim of this series against the Braves was to get out of it without having to go through the Wild-Card Round so that they may line them up in the Division Series, and perhaps win it tidily enough to do it again come the NLCS. Baseball, much like God, is usually unreceptive to your plans.
deGrom wasn’t bad on Friday, but he wasn’t deGrom, giving up three runs over six innings while still striking out 11. The Mets’ underbelly, that being the relievers that bridge to Edwin Diaz, weren’t up to the task either. Scherzer was worse, not getting out of the sixth while giving up four runs. Bassitt didn’t even see the fourth.
Meanwhile, the Braves didn’t require six innings out of any of their starters (Fried, Wright, Morton) and held a wonky Mets offense to just six runs over the three games. The Braves hit homers, seven of them, and the Mets only hit three. The Braves rank second in MLB in homers. The Mets 16th. When the playoffs come, offenses need to strike quick. Stringing hits off the best pitching staffs around is even more of a challenge. The Braves are built for it. The Mets are not. The Mets don’t strike out much at all, which is how they score runs. They didn’t strike out much in this series either, but it wasn’t enough. When the Braves needed it, they got an out.
So, now the Mets have to, likely, negotiate the Wild-Card Round against the Padres, and burn out at least two of their three best starters without much time to wheel them back against the Dodgers. The Padres don’t hit a ton of homers either, though you wouldn’t choose to have to navigate Yu Darvish, Blake Snell in current form, and Joe Musgrove if you didn’t have to. It’s not so much the fear of the Wild-Card Round so much as the state it will leave the Mets in when they have to see Los Angeles, instead of getting to wait around for either the Cardinals or Phillies or Brewers after they exit the Wild-Card Rounds. It’s just a far bumpier trail, and one the Mets didn’t really consider needing to walk until very recently.
This playoff system will burn other 100-win teams like the Mets in the future. They’re essentially undone by geography. If New York was in Indiana, they would have put their feet up on Father’s Day. But thankfully for all of us, New York is not in Indiana, though that state could surely use it.
Which is why this particular team, done dirty by the playoff system, will make more noise about it than most. Because they are the Mets, and no matter how right they get things, something wrong is never too far away, ready to leap out from some corner with pie in hand, specifically targeted for the Mets’ face
I try not to get back into #LOLMLS phase anymore, as that was a previous time. However, this sequence from Real Salt Lake, and especially defender Justin Gladd, might live with them all winter. First, a confluence of balloon-handedness to contrive not score a winner:
The kicker, if you’ll allow me, is that RSL really needed those two points. With them, they’d be in a playoff spot right now. Now they need to beat Portland next week. It isn’t only exclusive to the Mets.