For the moment, Mets have minimal control over home field advantage
This is not how the Mets wanted or hoped things would be when they arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday night.
But they did it to themselves.
The Mets are hanging on by the shoestrings for home field advantage in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, holding only a tiebreaker thanks to winning their season series 4-3 to open the playoffs next Friday at Citi Field.
This is all thanks to the Mets getting swept in a dreary and lazy looking series against the hapless Phillies, who are playing to avoid losing 100 games, or simply one moral victory in a year that began with hopelessness when they were fitted for uniforms in Clearwater back in February.
“It stinks, you want to go ahead and control your own destiny a little bit better than what we’ve done,” Kelly Johnson told the New York Post. “We’ve got to play better all the way around. It was bad – a bad three games. It would be nice, though, to line it up and play a normal slate of games with our normal starting pitching.
“We’re obviously trying to balance getting guys rest and making sure that they’re strong, and I get it – it’s just kind of frustrating.”
Michael Cuddyer lamented the lost opportunity in a similar manner.
“Especially when you know you’re going to play the Dodgers,” Cuddyer said. “That’s East Coast to West Coast and it’s a lot better to play those first two games at home and you don’t have to go 3,000 miles.”
In fairness, there’s no real scientific evidence home field matters in the grand scheme of things. Take the Giants as the most recent example in 2014, who won the Wild Card and won every one of their playoff series – including the World Series – without the home field advantage card in their pocket throughout the entire tournament.
But that doesn’t mean the conditions aren’t important to either the team or the fans. In the case of the Dodgers, the infamous 4 PM October shadows at Dodger Stadium can play a role for the hitters from a visibility perspective.
And as David Wright explained after Wednesday’s uninspiring loss to the Phillies, it’s important for the fans as well, and to have it in general in New York.
“The majority of the year we’ve played well at home, so I think strategically it would help us,” Wright said. “You also want to get home field for the fans too. They’re as involved as any fan base, giving us that home-field advantage.”
Terry Collins has emphasized how important home field advantage is to the team. He has reinforced that importance on a regular basis since they clinched the National League East on Sunday. But his club generally lacked consistent energy over the last three days. That could be a combination of playing in front of miniscule crowds at Citizens Bank Park as well as the natural letdown after clinching the title in the emotional manner they did.
In 2006, the Mets lost seven of their nine games following clinching the National League East on September 18. They did conclude their season with a four-game winning streak.
But he was also not managing the last three games strategically, which didn’t help their lack of energy. He’s in the process of evaluating Jon Niese for a bullpen role, and admitted he was testing him in both scenarios he was in.
There was also the issue with Steven Matz and being forced to scratch him in two consecutive days, forcing Logan Verrett to start unprepared and having to turn to an unusual program on Thursday with Sean Gilmartin starting, all with the game suddenly being pushed up seven hours.
Collins also rested the majority of his starters on Thursday, which in the end, that along with getting everyone healthy ahead of the postseason is a greater priority than anything.
After all, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has publicly stated the first priority is health for his club, with home field advantage being a nice bonus to that.
That doesn’t excuse the lack of energy for the Mets, of course, especially against the lowly Phillies who are simply playing for pride over the final week of the season. And these are still regular season games, even though they have no impact on the standings.
The Mets simply didn’t show up in Philadelphia, and the results are indicative of that. All they can do now is hope that doesn’t cost them something they themselves clearly value, whether it’s scientifically supported or not.
What’s more, the Mets left Philadelphia with three flat losses, a suspended reliever, one bruised hand to their transformational hitter, an unresolved injury to Juan Uribe, and three bad backs in Matz, Wilmer Flores and Eric O’Flaherty.
That neither qualifies as winning or getting healthy.
Collins will play his full lineup – perhaps without Yoenis Cespedes – on Friday with hopes they can feed off the energy of bringing their first division title home in nine years.
“We always have a little scout meeting before the series and I will try to give my ‘A’ speech,” Collins said after Thursday’s loss.
Here’s to hoping the Mets put forth their ‘A’ game against the Nationals at home, a place they’re suddenly struggling in as well.