As the regular season comes to dramatic close for the Mets, it’s time for them to reveal if they have championship DNA.
No doubt the Mets are a bona fide World Series contender. At 97-58 before facing the Miami Marlins last night (Wednesday) at CitiField, they were tied for the third best record in Major League Baseball. That’s a better record than 26 of MLB’s 30 teams, including the Yankees, who were 95-59, the St. Louis Cardinals (90-65) and the Cleveland Guardians (86-68).
All of those teams had already clinched the American League East, National League Central and American League Central division titles respectively. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers (106-48) and the Houston Astros (102-53) had better marks. The Mets’ unsettled circumstances are in part self-inflicted and a result of them being in the same division as the Atlanta Braves, the defending World Series champion and their longtime nemesis.
By losing to the Miami Marlins at home 6-4 on Tuesday night, coupled with an 8-2 Braves win over the Washington Nationals, the Mets fell into a tie with the Braves in the NL East and will begin a critically important three-game series with them in Atlanta tomorrow night. The Mets will conclude the regular season playing the Washington Nationals three games in Queens scheduled for next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Braves end with three road games versus the Marlins.
Both the Mets and the Braves have clinched wild card playoff spots. But the gem is the division title. More than being an emotional and optics accomplishment, it will provide the winner a first round bye and much needed rest. Going into Tuesday, the Mets had held sole possession of first place for all but four days since the season opened in early April. That’s over 5 1/2 months of sitting atop the NL East.
But stumbling blocks such as getting swept three games at Citi Field by the lowly Chicago Cubs Sept. 12-14 gave the relentless Braves an opportunity to close the gap, on which they capitalized. Although manager Buck Showalter’s crew was a solid 8-3 in their previous 11 games before playing the Marlins last night, they were 2-2 since last Friday while the Braves, chipping away at the lead, were 4-0 since Saturday.
“This is really, really fun being in a race like this,” said Mets first baseman Pete Alonso on Tuesday. “…We just want to continue playing the great baseball we’ve been playing all year.”
Alonso hit his 40th home run of the season on Tuesday, making him the first player in Mets franchise history to achieve two seasons of 40 or more homers. In 2019, Alonso hit 53, breaking MLB’s rookie record, previously 52 held by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge.