Thirteen games remain, at the conclusion of which the Mets will either be shut out from the playoffs for the fourth straight year or somehow invited to the postseason tournament.
A team with high-end pieces such as Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith shouldn’t be such a long shot, especially in an expanded playoff format that will include eight teams in each league, but here are the Mets at 21-26 and probably needing something in the neighborhood of a 10-3 finish to have a shot.
Mathematically, it’s possible. But anybody who has watched this inconsistent crew for the first 47 games might find the notion of “Mets” and “playoffs” in the same sentence as confounding.
Here are five questions to ponder as we enter the final stretch:
What are the Mets’ odds of reaching the postseason?
Fangraphs gave the Mets a 26.9 percent chance as of Monday afternoon, a number that seemed somewhat high given the upcoming schedule.
Even if the Mets were to sweep three games in Philadelphia beginning Tuesday, their reward will be returning home for six games to face the Braves and Rays, who lead the NL East and AL East, respectively. It’s unlikely either team (especially the Braves) will have clinched the division by the time it arrives at Citi Field, making the games meaningful for not only the Mets.
But the schedule does throw the Mets a potential batting-practice fastball of sorts to conclude the season: four games in Washington against the disappointing Nationals, who will be looking to conclude as quickly as possible. The trick for the Mets will be reaching the Nationals series with anything better than the slimmest of hopes.
How does the starting rotation look?
Luis Rojas has shortened his rotation for this week by skipping Michael Wacha, who has struggled. But the Mets are going to need a fifth starter, whether it’s Wacha or equally underwhelming Steven Matz (or some combination of both) to pitch twice in this final stretch. The first of those starts would come Saturday against the Braves. Maybe Erasmo Ramirez gets a shot based on his solid work in long relief.
The Mets have deGrom and Seth Lugo to pitch the final two games in Philadelphia, but need a productive outing from inconsistent Rick Porcello to begin the series. This clearly isn’t last September, when the Mets stayed in the postseason race until late by sending deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Marcus Stroman and a more dependable Matz to the mound. Behind deGrom and Lugo it gets a little iffy this time around.
What is the injury situation?
Remarkably, the Mets are relatively healthy. Their hope is Jake Marisnick can return from right hamstring tightness to provide a righty bat off the bench and defense in center field, but otherwise the Mets aren’t awaiting anyone other than maybe Tomas Nido, who would provide them with a third catcher. Even so, the Mets don’t have an obvious roster move to make that would create roster space for Nido unless somebody is placed on the injured list.
What about Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young Award pursuit?
DeGrom is scheduled to start Wednesday (at Philadelphia), Monday (against Tampa Bay) and the final Saturday of the regular season (at Washington). Of those three the biggest challenge might be Wednesday, given the Phillies’ solid lineup and the launching pad known as Citizens Bank Park. Yu Darvish and Trevor Bauer appear to be deGrom’s two biggest competitors for the award, but don’t discount the possibility of an Aaron Nola or Dinelson Lamet making a surge over this final stretch. DeGrom began Monday as the NL leader in ERA (1.67) and was tied for the lead with 79 strikeouts. But this is a close race.
Can the Mets’ bullpen be trusted?
If you were told before the season that Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia would both have sub-3.50 ERAs at this point the assumption might be the Mets’ bullpen was in good shape. But it’s been a seesaw, partly because of Lugo’s needed move to fill a void in the starting rotation. Also, Justin Wilson, Brad Brach and Jared Hughes haven’t provided the consistency that’s been needed, and team brass is still getting a read on recent addition Miguel Castro. At a time the Mets are without room for error, this bullpen doesn’t inspire great confidence.