Before we dive deep into what went wrong for the New York Mets in August, let’s reflect on a piece of our July review to see what the then first-place Mets needed to do to maintain their positioning in August.
“Splitting the games against the NL West foes should be the goal, so even a 6-7 finish is fine against two stronger teams when the Mets won’t have either deGrom or Lindor. The key here will be to clean up in the division games, including a series win in Philadelphia next weekend, to put together a 17-12 finish in August.”
What actually happened for the Mets was an unacceptable 2-11 performance against those two teams. Combined with a miserable showing against teams not named the Washington Nationals, the Mets went just 8-19 in scheduled August games (one of their wins was the completion of a suspended game against the Miami Marlins which retroactively raises their April record to 10-11) to go from a 3.5 game lead in the National League East to a 5.5 game deficit in the span of a month.
The troubles started early as the Mets went 1-6 on a six-game road trip in the division, including a three-game sweep by the Philadelphia Phillies to drop them out of first place for the first time in 90 days. A sweep of the Nationals appeared to right the ship but the Mets’ bats disappeared in their 2-11 run against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, a stretch that included eight losses by just one run. There was plenty of frustration off the field as well as Javier Baez and several of his teammates decided to adopt a “thumbs down” celebration to get back at fans who they perceived as being too critical of their poor performance.
The awful run of play coincided with a massive surge from the Atlanta Braves, who feasted on poor competition to build a huge lead in the division. The Mets have been trying to chip away at it ever since, ending the month with four wins against the Marlins and Nationals to turn what was an 8.5 game deficit to a 5.5 game gap as September begins. Taking advantage of these games will be pivotal if the Mets aim to make up ground with the Braves having a ton of games left against elite National League West competition.
Very few Mets had Augusts worth writing home about, although Jonathan Villar stepped up, batting .307 with five home runs and 12 RBI’s in 88 at-bats. Brandon Nimmo (.283/2/5), Michael Conforto (.268/4/11), J.D. Davis (.282/1/10) and Pete Alonso (.262/6/14) did solid in spurts but rarely produced together, leading to the team’s offensive woes.
The bullpen was probably the Mets’ most efficient unit in August as Aaron Loup (1-0, 0.82 ERA in 11 appearances), Seth Lugo (1.54 ERA in 11 appearances) and Edwin Diaz (4 saves, 1.80 ERA in 9 appearances) did solid work. Marcus Stroman was the best starter, going 2-3 with a 3.60 ERA in six starts, making him the only member of the Mets’ rotation with an ERA under four for August.
The math isn’t in favor of the Mets as they enter September with just 65 wins and likely needing at least 20 victories over their final 30 games to give themselves a chance to sneak in the playoffs. Piling up wins against the Marlins and Nationals, who they still have 13 games against, could put a significant chunk in that total. Winning series against the red-hot New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers won’t be easy, but matchups against the Phillies and Boston Red Sox are certainly manageable. The Mets could reasonably be mathematically alive by the time they get to Atlanta for their final series of the season. If the deficit in the National League East is three games or less by October 1, the Mets will have an opportunity to control their destiny. Getting there appears to be the most difficult challenge.