BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
When we last talked about the Mets, they came off a humbling sweep last weekend by the Atlanta Braves that cost them the NL East division. They settled for a wild-card berth on Tuesday night after the Braves took a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins at loanDepot Park.
The Mets stars such as Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso performed awfully in this past weekend’s series. They were the reason the team won 101 games, and they were the reason why their 101-win team is playing this weekend while the other 101- win team in the Braves is getting a bye.
The Mets start their postseason Friday night against the San Diego Padres in the best-of-three wild-card series. It can end tomorrow or tomorrow or Sunday could be a start of a long run. The best-of-three series leaves no margin for error. They used up all their mistakes last weekend.
The stars perform now or they will enter the offseason reflecting on their failures. For better or for worse, it’s on them.
Expectations on the Mets turned up a notch in July. This wasn’t about just making the playoffs anymore. This was about winning the NL East and being the last team standing. The Mets did not get the job done of winning the division, but they can redeem themselves by winning the World Series.
This playoff road won’t be easy for the Amazins. They start off playing a talented Padres team that can hit and pitch. They struggled against Yu Darvish in his two starts against them this season. If they somehow survive against their wild-card opponent, they get the opportunity to play the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers, who are the odds-on favorite to win it all. If they get through that gauntlet, they face either the Braves or St. Louis Cardinals.
They have a shot at winning the World Series if they get by all that.
But first things first: Beat the Padres and advance to the Division Series.
It’s hard to handicap this series. This could go either way. This is a push. Anyone can make a case for either team to advance.
One thing is for sure: If the Mets don’t advance to the NL Division Series, this season would be a failure. It’s hard to celebrate the first-round ouster after winning 101 games. By winning 101 games, a team has to go far to validate their regular-season record. It’s why teams like the Dodgers and Yankees have the pressure of going to the World Series and winning it all.
There’s no doubt where the pressure is. Sure, Padres fans can say the pressure is on their team, and that’s true, but Steve Cohen did not spend money the last few years to celebrate a brief playoff appearance. He should get something out of his investment.
The Mets will play all their three wild-card games at Citi Field. They don’t have to travel to the West Coast. This is one advantage they have. They also can feed off the electric crowd at Citi Field this weekend. This is why they should be slight favorites to win this series.
For the Mets stars that failed this past weekend, this starts their redemption tour. They certainly don’t want to end their season on this note.
Scherzer makes the opening start of the series on Friday. The Mets gave him a three-year, $130 million deal not only to play for them, but for starts like this. He has a Hall of Fame career, but no Mets fan will care about that since he and she want to see him to perform for their own team. He will be pitching in front of a crowd that is hungry for postseason success.
Mets manager Buck Showalter started him in Game 1 with the idea he can feed off the fans’ energy. Scherzer loves to talk about playing in front of electric crowds and doing well. This sounds good, but Friday night will serve as the ultimate test. Fans can turn on him in a New York minute if he flops. He can ask Tom Glavine.
One can make a case that Scherzer has the most pressure than Lindor, Alonso, deGrom and Bassitt. After all, starting pitchers dictate how a team does in the game. Great performances give a team a chance. The Mets could use a masterful pitching performance out of him tonight.
Lindor could use a great game Friday night. He had a good season by hitting 26 home runs and driving in 107 runs with a .339 on-base percentage, .449 slugging percentage and .788 OPS. Sure his batting average could be better than he is hitting .270, but the batting average doesn’t carry weight like it used to. Still, it’s been awhile since Lindor had an impact performance that had him lead the Mets to a victory. He was coming off a 2-for-15 performance in this past weekend’s series against the Braves, so he needs to atone for a bad performance.
He could make everyone’s job easy by finding a way to hit home runs and driving in runs. It’s been a long time since he did that. He may have the second-most pressure.
If the Mets somehow play Game 3 on Sunday night or play in an elimination game in Game 2, deGrom has all the pressure. This could be his last start as a Met. He will opt out as a free agent this offseason, and if he pitches poorly in what could be his last start, most fans will definitely remember him for how his final start ends up.
The Mets spent all week wondering what could have been and what could have they done better. Now, they will get to apply what they learned against the Padres. There’s no doubt they want to get another shot at playing the Braves in the playoffs.
Legacies are made in the postseason. It’s now or never.
It’s time for them to put up or go in peace.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6