Winning the National League East is now a matter of ‘when’ for the Mets….
It’s no longer a matter of if. It is now inevitable.
It’s a matter of when.
The Mets have won six in a row and the Nationals have lost five in a row, dating back to what seemed like a season-defining three-game series between the two clubs on September 7 in Washington.
Six days later, the Mets are unbelievably 9 1/2 games ahead of the Nationals with 20 games remaining in the regular season.
They have ticked their magic number down by 11 in just six days.
It would take a collapse well beyond what took place in 2007 for the Mets to blow this lead. Even if the Mets go 10-10 down the stretch (which would be poor given their schedule), the Nationals have to run the table to 21-0 to catch the Mets and win the division outright.
If the Mets go 11-9, the Nationals can only tie the Mets even if they do run the table.
Again, this is no longer a question of if. Its a question of when.
Mathematically, the Mets could clinch the National League Eastern Division Championship against the Yankees next Saturday, assuming the Mets win every game through that date and the Nationals lose every game.
While the Mets have been phenomenally good and arguably the best team in baseball since the trade deadline (along with the Cubs, Pirates, and Blue Jays), that seems unrealistic.
Not so much that the Mets can’t win all of those games, but it’s hard to believe the Nationals could actually lose all of those games, as poorly as they’ve played.
It’s more realistic to expect the Mets to clinch the National League East against the Braves next week, or the Reds in their final road trip of the season.
To clinch at home would be extra sweet, as the long awaited celebration would come in front of a loyal fanbase who has waited patiently for that moment in the midst of some of the most bizarre and depressing circumstances any organization has experienced in professional sports history.
But for the first time throughout the last month, watching the scoreboard is no longer about being concerned with the Nationals gaining ground on the Mets. It’s about simply ticking the magic number down, win or lose, and winning this thing as soon as possible.
That could be good and bad, although the Mets will still have home field advantage to play for in the Division Series whenever they do win the National League East.
Terry Collins will undoubtedly begin to rest his players on a regular basis the day after the club wins the division. The earlier they win, the more rest they will get. With nothing to play for, it’s important the manager and coaching staff ensures the club doesn’t lose this edge they have, which right now has the capability of beating anyone in the league right now.
The playoffs are about momentum, and who’s hot and able to maintain their roll while dealing with the pressures that come with an invitation to the tournament. Will the Mets be able to maintain that momentum when the games become even more meaningful?
Nobody knows for sure, but right now, they look invincible and as complete as they have since 1988.
Maybe even more complete than that.
Its going to be up to the manager and coaching staff to ensure the edge and rhythm are not lost even as he attempts to give his players a necessary reprieve down the stretch.