The Mets' three-headed monster is being unleashed tonight in Atlanta...
Tonight serves as the first of hopefully many reasons why the Mets signed Max Scherzer and traded for Chris Bassitt in the off-season
So, here we are.
Two months ago when the Braves left town having lost four out of five to the Mets and falling 6 1/2 games out of first place, it seemed inevitable the Mets would pull away and win the division with relative ease.
In fact, after that series win Brandon Nimmo said himself it would be really difficult for the Braves to catch the Mets in the division.
Of course, you didn't really think it would be that easy, right? I mean, these are the Mets we are talking about even if its a new brand of Mets baseball.
After dropping three of four to the Braves a week later and a lackluster start to September for the Mets, the Braves did indeed catch the Mets and for a day anyway on September 9, they were 1/2 game ahead of the Mets in the National League East.
But the Mets have been ahead of the Braves since although they’ve gone just 10-6 since September 9 against the Cubs, Marlins, Pirates, Brewers and A’s during that span and enter this showdown series ahead of Atlanta by one game in the National League East with six to go on the regular season schedule. Both teams have had opportunities to pull ahead in this race over the last couple of weeks, and both teams have missed said opportunities.
So, again here we are.
The Mets certainly had this series in their sights when they activated Max Scherzer from the injured list a couple of weeks ago, strategically aligning him to pitch back-to-back in some order with Jacob deGrom for their most impactful series of the season.
And indeed, it will be deGrom followed by Scherzer tonight and tomorrow in Atlanta with Chris Bassitt to follow on Sunday.
When the Mets signed Scherzer nearly ten months ago at the winter meetings, they envisioned a dream scenario of having him alongside deGrom in critical, late-season games as well as playoff games, creating a two-headed spear which could be unstoppable in the club’s biggest games of the season.
Add in the finesse of Bassitt and the Mets are setup to outmatch anyone in their way on the mound, on paper anyway.
But aside from the intangibles Scherzer brought to the Mets with his $43 million price tag, this series is just the first part of the whole reason why they signed him and have him here to begin with.
And, that is to start a journey by pitching them along with deGrom (and now Bassitt) up the Canyon of Heroes about a month from now.
Yes, their performances in that series against Atlanta at the beginning of August were critically important and demonstrated the need to have elite co-aces at the top of the rotation. But that was merely a sneak preview of a much bigger design and intent. After all, deGrom was just coming off the injured list and while he was utterly dominant in that start until Dansby Swanson took him deep, he was only just building his game stamina at that point.
It was the first step towards tonight’s start, one which carries far greater import and consequences than any previous start this season for him. What better hands are there to put a game where the Mets can clinch the tiebreaker against the Braves and lower their magic number to three with five games to go than deGrom?
Then of course there’s Scherzer tomorrow, the grizzly, battle-tested future hall of famer who has been in this spot time and time again over the course of his career. A player who fully understands and is ready to seize this moment for his new club. Again, there may not be a better set of hands to put their fate for the division title in.
And then there’s the under-discussed Bassitt on Sunday who has been nothing short of spectacular this season himself overall. He has been there from day one serving as a consistent presence for the Mets, stepping up in the absences of both Scherzer and deGrom and proving to be a relentless bulldog on the mound even in the most pressurized of circumstances.
This is what it’s all about.
Now, let’s talk about the Braves for a moment.
They’ve erased a 10.5 game deficit on June 1 to be in this position today. They’ve gone 74-32 since that date, which is just an insane run of baseball. They’ve had winning streaks of 14, 8, 7, and 5 to help them get to this spot, they are incredibly well run and organized and both Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom have been game changing godsends for them during that time. They are battle tested too and don’t forget they’re the reigning World Champion as well. They are as formidable a force as there is in the game and whether they win the division or not, there’s no reason to expect them to depart the tournament early in October.
And now, back to the Mets who are 64-41 since June 1, great but not nearly as insane as what the Braves have done.
The amazing part about them is they’ve been able to stay atop the National League East for as long as they have (outside of that one day three weeks ago). They’ve had a more difficult schedule than the Braves overall, especially since June 1, and they’ve had to do this without getting a lot of starts from deGrom or Scherzer for large chunks of the season as well.
If they can hang on for a little while longer and come away with a division title when it’s all said and done, having done it with so much adversity to wrangle through will make it that much sweeter in the end.
But again, this is what it’s all about and why the Mets loaded up with Scherzer and Bassitt to join deGrom atop the rotation. It’s for contests and challenges like the one they’re facing this weekend in which their guile coupled with their skills which alone gives them an advantage against any opponent in the game.
That trust will be placed in their greatest task to-date in 2022 at Truist Park tonight, which will unquestionably be in a playoff-type pressure cooker and in a city which historically has not been very kind to this franchise in times like this.
Here are the scenarios for both clubs this weekend:
There is no tie-breaking game at the end of the year - if both the Mets and Braves finish with the same record, the division would be awarded to the team who wins the season series, an outcome which will be determined this weekend. The Mets are 9-7 against the Braves so far in 2022
If the Mets win one game this weekend, their magic number to clinch the National League East will be reduced from six to three thanks to a win, a loss by the Braves and the Mets clinching the season series against the Braves. But should the Mets lose two out of three, the two teams would enter play on Monday with the same record with three games to go
If the Mets win two games this weekend, their magic number to clinch the National League East would be reduced from six to one thanks to two wins, two losses from the Braves and the Mets clinching the season series against the Braves. The Mets would be two games ahead of the Braves with three to go and would have an opportunity to win the National League Eastern Division Title at Citi Field on Monday night
If the Mets sweep the series in Atlanta, they will win the National League East outright on Sunday night, as that would put the Mets four games ahead of the Braves with three games to go
If the Mets are swept by the Braves this weekend, that would put Atlanta ahead of the Mets by two games with three games to go. The Braves would win the season series/tiebreaker against the Mets, thereby reducing their magic number to one to win the National League East at the close of business Sunday. This is a worst-case scenario for the Mets, of course
Atlanta will be in Miami and New York will host Washington for the final three regular season games of the year starting Monday
If the Mets go at least 4-2 to finish the season, there is no scenario in which the Braves can win the National League East - one of those four wins would have to come against the Braves, thus giving the Mets the tiebreaker and securing the division even if they both finish with the same record.
With that, the three-headed monster gets to be let out of it’s cage beginning tonight.