It hasn’t been easy to be a fan of the New York Mets over the past month. A massive offensive slump, combined with injuries and regression from the starting pitching staff, has helped the Mets turn a 3.5 game lead in the National League East to a seven-game deficit in a matter of weeks. The Atlanta Braves have also taken advantage of a soft portion of their schedule, ripping off nine consecutive wins against bottom feeders as part of a 16-3 stretch in August.
That run came as the Mets faced a brutal two-week stretch against the National League’s two best teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, and they have gone just 2-8 in the first 10 games of that run. Those facts have combined to drop the Mets’ playoff odds to just 5.5 percent, a dramatic drop from the nearly 77 percent postseason odds they held at the All-Star Break.
While all may seem lost, the good news for the Mets is that their schedule will get considerably easier after the Giants leave town on Thursday. The Mets will have 35 games left at that point. 18 of those are against the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins, the two worst teams in the National League East, offering the Mets a prime opportunity to fatten up on mediocre teams like the Braves have done to this point. Atlanta has just six games left against those two teams, but do sprinkle in four games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and seven against the Colorado Rockies for good measure.
The Mets are getting healthier as well, with Javier Baez’s return from the injured list on Sunday providing a big lift in Los Angeles. Francisco Lindor should be back as soon as today, giving the Mets their dynamic middle infield back, while pitching reinforcements like Noah Syndergaard and Robert Gsellman shouldn’t be too far behind. There is also a significant home/road split advantage for the Mets, who play 22 of their final 38 games at Citi Field, where they have played significantly better this season.
Atlanta’s schedule will also get much more difficult over the next two weeks with matchups against the New York Yankees, Giants, Dodgers and Rockies upcoming. The latter two series are on the road, which is significant since the Rockies are dramatically better at home (43-22) than on the road (15-47). The Braves also have two West Coast trips this month, including a 10-gamer through San Francisco, Arizona and San Diego that won’t be easy.
The Phillies are a factor as well but they have been far too inconsistent to really bank on them as a major threat. Philadelphia has an easier schedule than either the Mets or Braves, but their leaky bullpen will likely cough up enough games to make them a non-factor at the end of the day.
There is no question that the Mets have to play better baseball to make up this deficit, although the seven-game deficit against Atlanta is a bit overstated since they have three games in Atlanta to end the season. The Mets will need to make up at least four games over that span to have a mathematical chance by the time they hit that series, which is certainly possible given the increased difficulty of schedule that the Braves will have to deal with in the coming weeks.
None of this will matter, however, if the Mets can’t play significantly better baseball than they have been doing for the past seven weeks. The Mets already have coughed up plenty of winnable games in the process, which is a big reason why they are where they are in the standings. The margin for error is gone and anything less than utter domination of the Nationals and Marlins will bury the Mets for good before football season even starts.