Contradictory points, right? Well, that is where we are with seven games remaining on the schedule. We have the advantage on winning the wild card over the Milwaukee Brewers, and we certainly are not out of the NL East race yet (although our chances are starting to dim a little bit). We are still favored to make the playoffs more often than not, and obviously, this Mets team is very talented and should make the playoffs.
Then again…we have been down this road before. Just last year, we saw a bigger lead than the one we currently hold over the Brewers evaporate in the blink of an eye, against worse teams than the Mets will face this week. Too many bad signs from last year are rearing their ugly head. It almost looks too familiar for Mets fans, and that is what is causing so much panic amongst Mets fans as we finish the season. The bullpen stinks, just like last year. Our starters are wearing down as the season comes to an end, save for Johan. Our hitting isn’t getting the job done. This month just feels too…familiar.
Then again…we had a bigger lead on the Phillies last year than they have on us this year. They were able to overcome a 2.5 game lead with 7 remaining to win the NL East; why can’t we overcome a smaller lead? Heck, we have already overcome several division leads by the Phillies this season; we were ourselves 7.5 back at one point this season and we came roaring back to make this a fight. Why not us? Why can’t we give them a dose of their own medicine? The script hasn’t been completely written on this season; there is still time for a few good outings by the rotation, or some good bullpen innings, and for the team to tack on some runs and turn the tables around on the Phillies.
Then again…why can’t the Brewers copy the Phillies and dash our playoff hopes? If the Phillies can overcome, why not the Brewers? They’re a pretty good team, and they have the benefit of playing Pittsburgh and a Cubs team that is not likely to start anybody of note this weekend, in order to set up their playoff rotation. They have CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets each pitching this week against Pittsburgh, lessening their chances of losing a game to the worst team in the National League. They have a real shot at this.
Then again…why should we be scared? We have two starts from Johan Santana this week. That means, as long as the offense doesn’t crap the bed or as long as the bullpen can hold a lead (neither guarantees, but bear with me), that means we only need Pedro, Pelfrey, Ollie, and Niese (starting twice) to go 2-3. If they do that, the Brewers need to go 5-1 to tie, and 6-0 to win the wild card, and they have not been playing good baseball this week. We have the edge here, right?
Then again…we have history. That is the worst part about this for Mets fans. Whether we want to admit this or not, the thought that another collapse could possibly be in the making is hanging over our heads. This one may in some ways be even crueler, because this Mets team is better than last year’s. Plus, this Mets team didn’t complacently hang around first place for most of the year; this team had to battle back to make the playoffs, after many Mets fans were ready to write this season off. If this team failed to make the playoffs after such a nice run…that would be devestating.
Then again…this gives us a shot at erasing history. We make the playoffs this year, after what happened last year, and the Mets can put a giant middle finger in the hat where the apple used to be and flash it to everybody who said this team lacked heart last year. To battle back after last year’s collapse, the first-half adversity and patching together a bullpen that game after game refuses to do the basic job of getting three outs per inning…that’s heart, my friends. That’s determination. This week gives Mets fans a chance to not have to worry about collapses or anything like that; at the very least, we can hold on and make the playoffs, and if things break our way, maybe take home a division title this week too. We are still in this and we can still do some damage.
I like to think every Mets fan is having thoughts like these this week. It’s hard to be optimistic after last year, particularly since the Mets fan does not have a long history of supporting good teams year after year. At the same time…I think most Mets fans see that this is a good team, a capable team, and a team that should find a way into the playoffs, bullpen woes aside. They have the advantage, and it’s not the Brewers who are exactly putting the pressure on the Mets; it’s the Mets who are making it easier for the Brewers to sneak back into the race, thanks to their bullpen being so incredibly lousy. But the important thing is making it, and the Mets can make it just by playing well this week. They don’t have to overwhelm the Cubs and Marlins; they just have to go 4-3. Just barely .500. That’s all they need to do. Can they do it? We’ll know soon enough.