Yoenis Cespedes – CF
Daniel Murphy – 2B
David Wright – 3B
Lucas Duda – 1B
Travis d’Arnaud – C
Michael Conforto – LF
Wilmer Flores – SS
Matt Harvey – RHP
There have been several stories recently, not to mention comments made on SNY, how the Mets have the easiest schedule of the playoff contenders for the rest of the season, with their opponents having a .440 winning percentage.
So, what does this mean?
Other than fodder for gamblers, bookies and radio talk show hosts, absolutely nothing of substance.
The Mets went into the Labor Day Weekend holding a six-game lead over the Nationals, and with six games remaining between them. Should they go into Washington Monday with such a lead or less they would not be controlling their own destiny. Which is a phrase you’ll be hearing over the next few weeks.
Here’s how the schedules of the Mets and Nationals compare until the end of the season:
Today: Mets: at Miami; Nationals: Atlanta.
Tomorrow: Mets: at Miami; Nationals: Atlanta.
Monday: Mets: at Washington; Nationals: Mets.
Tuesday: Mets: at Washington; Nationals: Mets.
Wednesday: Mets: at Washington; Nationals: Mets.
Thursday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: Off.
Friday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: at Miami.
Saturday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: at Miami.
Sunday: Mets: at Atlanta; Nationals: at Miami.
September 14: Mets: Miami; Nationals: at Philadelphia.
September 15: Mets: Miami; Nationals: at Philadelphia.
September 16: Mets: Miami; Nationals: at Philadelphia.
September 17: Mets: Off; Nationals: Miami.
September 18: Mets: Yankees; Nationals: Miami.
September 19: Mets: Yankees; Nationals: Miami.
September 20: Mets: Yankees; Nationals: Miami.
September 21: Mets: Atlanta; Nationals: Orioles.
September 22: Mets: Atlanta; Nationals: Orioles.
September 23: Mets: Atlanta; Nationals: Orioles.
September 24: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Off.
September 25: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Phillies.
September 26: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Phillies.
September 27: Mets: at Reds; Nationals: Phillies.
September 28: Mets: Off; Nationals: Reds.
September 29: Mets: at Phillies; Nationals: at Atlanta.
September 30: Mets: at Phillies; Nationals: at Atlanta.
October 1: Mets: at Phillies; Nationals: at Atlanta.
October 2: Mets: Nationals; Nationals: at Mets.
October 3: Mets: Nationals; Nationals: at Mets.
October 4: Mets: Nationals; Nationals: at Mets.
From here until the end of the season, the Mets have a slightly tougher schedule with their three games against the Yankees. Other than that series, their schedules are identical.
In addition, the Mets are confronted with several issues, including injuries to Michael Cuddyer, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy; Jacob deGrom in his worst stretch of the season; the emerging issue of Matt Harvey’s innings and it being a distraction; Jon Niese‘s struggles; the uncertainty of Steven Matz; how their young starters will respond to playoff pressure; and their porous bullpen.
When it comes to rookie outfielder Michael Conforto, the Mets plan to choose the path of least of resistance and will continue their platoon system in left field. But, these are the Mets, so expect obstacles.
“We’ve brought people in here that hit lefties, that have a career record of hitting lefties,” manager Terry Collins said. “And right now that’s what we’ve been doing, and I’m going to stay with it.”
One of those hitters is Michael Cuddyer, but with injuries to Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy, Collins might not execute this platoon plan as they want – and that’s not a bad thing if it gives more playing time to Conforto.
Conforto is on a hot streak going 20-for-50 (.400) with five doubles, four homers and nine RBI in his last 17 games. He is hitting .311 overall, and attributes his success to going to the opposite field.
Sure, Cuddyer is hitting well since coming off the disabled list and is in the first season of a two-year contract. The way he’s hitting he should be playing, but with Duda on the DL it should be at first. Murphy has been playing a lot of first lately, but he’s day-to-day with a strained quad, which should remove some of the obstacles.
Nobody knows how long Duda and Murphy will be sidelined, but this is a perfect opportunity to give Conforto major league at-bats, including against lefties.
As for Yoenis Cespedes, stick him center and leave him there. Juan Lagares hasn’t done anything to justify his multi-year contract, so keep him as late-inning defense.
Conforto will be the starting left fielder with Cuddyer coming off the bench. There’s no reason why the Mets can’t get a head start on things now.
Maybe there are omens, if you believe in such things, but there is so much to like about what’s happening for the Mets, and it could be personified by Logan Verrett. Not only did the Mets get five innings from Verrett in his start for Matt Harvey, but got eight strong – with eight strikes in today’s series clinching win over the Rockies.
Things don’t often fall into place the way did for the Mets today. After a rocky first inning Verrett settled down to where you thought you were actually seeing Harvey. Funny line from Verrett, telling Harvey, “I don’t know why everybody is freaking out because everybody knows I’m a better pitcher than you.”
Not only did the Mets rest Harvey, but got a victory and their first sweep of the Rockies in Coors Field. For one day at least, Verrett made us believe this innings-saving program with Harvey might just work after all.
Conventional wisdom had the Mets sending down Verrett to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game, but he was so impressive the Mets optioned out left reliever Dario Alvarez instead. Verrett also gives manager Terry Collins a reliable choice should he need to rest Harvey again or Noah Syndergaard. As a manager, you don’t want to do a lot of searching in September.
The Mets’ bullpen – evidenced by the first two games of the Colorado series – has been shaky lately, but Verrett can offer stability.
There were other season-falling-into-place signs for the Mets this week.
All right, I thought they dragged their feet placing Lucas Duda on the disabled list, but they appear to be surviving his absence. Daniel Murphy, who supposedly can’t play defense, started a key double play. Speaking of defense, Wilmer Flores – with tears out of his eyes – is showing he can play shortstop when he has to. He saved a run, today.
And, the more I see him, the more I like Yoenis Cespedes. He made two scintillating plays in center field that undoubtedly saved a few runs. Since the Mets got him their offense has transformed into something to be feared.
Once struggling for runs, the Mets are scoring at a rate where the pressure was lessened on Michael Conforto, and will be for David Wright when he’s activated from the disabled list Monday in Philadelphia. The Mets need Wright to be Wright, but with the way the Mets are hitting – thanks in large part to Cespedes – they can ease him back. The last thing the Mets want is for Wright to force things, and if the offense keeps producing it makes things easier for Wright.
And, with Uribe, they have a reliable option at third. Uribe, with the Latin pitchers, can be a calming influence. He was today with Hansel Robles.
The Mets are a season-high 11 games over .500 as they go to Philadelphia. However, these Phillies are a different bunch than the team the Mets have beaten up on this year.
The Mets have pitched well all season, recently started to hit and their defense is better. If Verrett can stabilize the bullpen when he’s not pitching eight strong, then the Mets could be doing more than playing meaningful games in September.
They could be playing meaningful games in October, and wouldn’t that be sweet.
There are hopes and there are expectations, and they aren’t one of the same when it pertains to the Mets and David Wright. When Wright returns – perhaps within the week – we hope for him to stay healthy and perform like the All-Star he was. But, we can’t really expect it, can we?
Manager Terry Collins is already putting limits on Wright by telling reporters, “[he] won’t be that everyday guy until we know his back is 100 percent and that might not be until next spring.” That might be the most realistic thing Collins ever said about Wright.
From when Wright comes back and until the end of the season, the Mets might learn third base might be pushing it for him. We might learn because of the bending at the position, that third base might not be the place for him. Then what?
Wright might share time with Daniel Murphy and Juan Uribe, as the Mets’ infield will resemble a jig-saw puzzle with pieces strewn all over the table. Murphy, Kelly Johnson and Wilmer Flores could share second; Ruben Tejada and Flores would share shortstop. Johnson can spell anybody at any position.
“That is what happens when you get a lot of players that are pretty good,” Collins told reporters in Baltimore. “You’ve got to figure out how to get them all in the game at different times. Yeah, it will be a little bit of a challenge.”
However, if Wright is stable and hitting, he’ll get most of the time at third base. Everybody, even Collins, knows that to be true.
That’s the best case scenario for the Mets, regardless of Collins’ words or caution. That is what we’re hoping for, but can’t realistically expect.