Esposito: Questions for a Wild Finish

Eleven days to go, and ten games to go – after tonight’s season finale with the Atlanta Braves – until Mets fans are assured of a Wild Card scenario which puts them in the tournament for a back-to-back invitation to the World Series.

And the only thing that is guaranteed is that it looks right now as if it’s going to go down to the wire.

Three teams for two spots in this final push for the NL Wild Card – the Mets, Cardinals, and Giants – all right now in a dead heat tie at 80-71 for the last week and a half.

Questions are on the docket, and the answers might not be known until a week from Sunday, when the regular season closes on Oct. 2.

1.Will the three teams end in a three-way tie?

It’s certainly possible, and if so, that creates a unique round-robin playoff to determine the Wild Cards on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 4th & 5th.

If this occurs, placement is determined by each team’s head-to-head record against each other. The Mets and Cards were each 7-6 versus the other two, and the Giants finished at 6-8. Therefore, New York and St. Louis each qualify as the No. 1 Wild Card, but will have to play each other to secure that title. The loser then faces San Francisco to determine the second Wild Card. Loser of that game goes home.

So picture this. The Mets finish the season in Philadelphia on Oct. 2. The Mets and Cards finished their head-to-head matchup with St. Louis also in a tie, 3-3, so a coin flip might determine where they’d play their Wild Card playoff. So for the sake of this, we’ll say they have to go to St. Louis for that confrontation.

If they win, they rest on the plane back to New York and face the winner of the Giants-Cards sudden death face-off at Citi Field. And if they’re victorious once more, then it’s off to Chicago to face the Cubbies in the NLDS that will feel a lot like last year’s NLCS, only with greater pressure as a best of five.

Lots of frequent flyer miles all around, but we’re looking forward to the excitement if this occurs.

2.What if two teams tie?

If two teams tie for the second Wild Card, first determination is again head-to-head matchups. As stated, the Mets and Cards split their series, so it’s back to the coin flip for that finale. And since the Mets took four out of seven against the Giants, they would host San Francisco at Citi Field for the chance to face the first Wild Card winner.

3.Will the Mets collapse again?

You have to at least think it’s possible, because they’ve done it before, although the cast is different and we’re nearly a decade removed from the horrors of those late-season collapses in 2007 and 2008. Every Mets fan remembers how the franchise blew a seven game lead with 17 to play in 2007, and were in first place by a half-game in ’08 with nine games to go. And lost the last game of the year in both seasons – to the Marlins – which ended their seasons.

And look who’s on the schedule this after the Braves and then the Phillies this weekend? The Marlins! Them again! The whole season could again come down to how well the Mets fare against the Fish in Miami. And with Don Mattingly calling the shots this time, and Giancarlo Stanton off the DL, this will be easy fishing.

4.Will the Mets need to trade for a starter to finish the season?

You know, with the way Mets starters are having season-ending surgeries, the latest being Jacob deGrom being shut down (he had surgery today to reposition the ulnar nerve in his right elbow), if anyone else goes down, it might not be a bad idea to scrounge around for a spare arm to finish the year.

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have saved the team’s bacon this year, coming out of nowhere (actually, Las Vegas) to perform amazingly well to keep the Mets in a position for the Wild Card. But Rafael Montero failed in his tryout for the rotation, and while Gabriel Ynoa pitched well in his start against the Twins on Sept. 18 (4.2 IP, 1 earned run, 8 Ks), do the Mets really want to hang the season on the rookie?

There is a possibility Stephen Matz is well enough to make another start or two, but frankly, for the sake of his bone spur, and the young Long islander’s future, they should shut him down, too.

There is actual precedent in obtaining a pitcher for a last minute start. The Mets once acquired veteran starter John Candelaria mid-September in 1987 and he made three appearances (2-1, 4.81). And in the last week of the ’77 season, the Mets acquired Doc Medich off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Medich made one start for the Mets, and lost, but pitched kinda decent (7.1 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs). In both instances, both pitchers never appeared with the Mets after that season.

Just saying…

And the most important question…

5.Will the Mets make the Wild Card?

Sure. If not, they have no one to blame but themselves.

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