Mets intend to maintain their intensity, won’t take their division lead for granted
Three days ago, the Mets opened their series with the Nationals with a four game lead in the National League East, cutdown by 2 1/2 games in four days thanks to a lost series against the Marlins in Miami, and the Nationals winners of five straight thanks in part to a four-game sweep of the Braves.
But in a span of 54 hours, the Mets expanded their lead to a season-high seven games and cutting their magic number to clinch the National League East down by six to 17 with only 23 games left to play, thanks to three dramatic come-from-behind wins at the expense of the Nationals, their bullpen, in-game decisions, and their own failure to execute the little things.
“We’re in an enviable position,” Kelly Johnson said after Wednesday’s win.
They can also thank Yoenis Cespedes for his MVP-caliber performance and dramatics for helping them earn this incredible sweep of the Nationals.
In the three games against the Nationals, Cespedes hit .429/1.071/1.500 with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBI with four runs scored.
“I’m not sure how it works, but he should be in the discussion for National League MVP,” Wright said of Cespedes. “It’s impressive.”
But the Mets are in an all too familiar position in the National League East. The last time the Mets had a seven game lead in the division was on September 12, 2007.
And that didn’t end well.
The Mets and Wright in particular – who was in the middle of watching that lead fall apart that season – know this isn’t a time to ease off the gas pedal.
“We have to look ahead to Atlanta and not have a letdown series,” Wright said. “Keep that same intensity. Keep that same mentality that we need to win every game and bring it into that series.”
The Mets have an opportunity to rack up another series win against a Braves team which has lost 20 of their last 23 games. Of course, these four games will be in Atlanta, a place the Mets have seen hopes and dreams fade in nightmarish fashion.
But Wright himself isn’t concerned about what lies ahead and 2007 happening all over again because of one key difference.
I think that those teams were built a little more around offense, whereas this team – and no offense to our pitching staff back in ’06, ’07, ’08 – we didn’t have this type of staff, how deep this staff is,” Wright explained. “On top of that, you sprinkle in the offense we have here, and it just seems like this is a more consistent team and a team that those arms we’re running out there, you feel like you have a pretty good chance to win on a nightly basis.”
Terry Collins said on Wednesday he intends to rest some of his key regulars in the series opener on Thursday after an emotionally draining sweep of the Nationals. It’s not unreasonable, especially now that his club owns a commanding lead in the division. But as Wright said, the Mets owe it to themselves to not coast the rest of the way and take the lead for granted.
Seven can become 4 1/2 again in a hurry. After all, that happened last week when the Mets lost a series to a second-division team and the Nationals swept a second-division team, and the monkey jumped right back on the shoulders of a Mets franchise which has been defined by one failure after the next on and off the field since the last time they were in the playoffs.
Even so, Terry Collins couldn’t be any happier with the team’s performance in this season-defining series.
“This proves we’re legitimate. This is not a fluke,” he said.
The division crown is in their reach. And unlike seven and eight years ago when satisfaction might have set in with their big lead, the Mets seem poised to go for the jugular.