The Dodgers are a very good team and have the best record in Major League Baseball. The Mets, well they say they are just as good. After taking two of three at Citi Field, including a 5-3 win late Thursday afternoon, which clinched their season series, there’s a prevailing question.
Who is the better team? There is every reason to understand why the top two teams in the National League were the center of attention this week. There is every reason to realize the Mets and Dodgers will meet again in the NLCS at some point next month.
Still, though, with five weeks to play, both the Mets and Dodgers are aware there is more baseball to be played before the postseason. It has been established, though, if they indeed meet again, a seven-game series is very probable.
And a best-four-out-of seven will have suspense. Both teams will pitch their best, and runs could be at a premium. We saw some small ball when Francisco Lindor stole third base and later scored in a Mets two-run sixth inning rally. Starling Marte, 3-for-3, perhaps the Mets MVP, laced an RBI single in the seventh.
That’s 12 RBI for Marte in his last 15 games. After Jacob deGrom threw 7.0 innings and allowed one run, Wednesday night, and with Chris Bassitt earning his 12th win Thursday, the Dodgers are aware the Mets starting rotation will be formidable in October.
Next time they could see deGrom and Max Scherzer back-to-back, a task in itself when it comes to a short series.
As good as they were these past three games, and tough to handle as they were in a four-game series split in Los Angeles back in June, the Mets say this was just another season series on the schedule.
But, as they say, October is a new season. These three at Citi Field and four before, were just a prelude. It counts more, if as expected the Mets and Dodgers go with the plan and meet in that NLCS.
Manager Buck Showalter said the key was how his Mets team pitched these last three games. Bassitt was in that category of going above and beyond, continuing to dominate at Citi Field, his last nine starts at home pitching to a 2.10 ERA.
“Got to establish that we can play well against them,” Showalter said when asked about this three-game series. “The key is how we matched their pitching and how our guys hit.”
And there is no denying the Mets played well. Leading baseball in runs scored, the Dodgers scored a total of eight runs in three games. A few mishaps Tuesday night, and the Mets could have gotten the three-game sweep.
“They’ve got good pitching, we’ve got good pitching,” said the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman. “It’s going to be like that if we do face them in the playoffs.”
But the Dodgers also have Clayton Kershaw, the multi-Cy Young Award winner. He was dominant in his first stint off the injured list and retired 13 straight batters after issuing a walk in the first inning with a perfect 10-0 career mark on the mound against the Mets.
“Was a little rough obviously,” he said. “But I’m thankful to kind of bounce out of that through five at best,” he said. For the 15th time, Kershaw allowed one hit or fewer and for the third time this season.
And there is that deciding factor for the Mets because of Edwin Diaz. He went above and beyond, though, his suspenseful eighth inning saw two long fly balls off an ineffective slider, that were too close to leaving the ballpark and possibly changing the outcome.
Diaz was used in that 8th inning role to get the potent top of the Dodgers’ order in Freeman, Will Smith, and Max Muncy. He walked Freeman, hit Smith, and Muncy scored on a ball that went deep to the warning track in center off the bat of Justin Turner.
Diaz, for the fifth time in 13 appearances, entered in the 8th inning. He managed to strike out Gavin Lux with a nasty 103-mile fastball which was recorded as the hardest thrown in his career.
Lux said Diaz is without a doubt the best closer in the game. The Mets will certainly use him in that 9th inning closer’s role in those October playoff games that will count as the real thing.
“I was a little bit angry because I wasn’t commanding my slider the way I want to.” Diaz said. “They got a really good team. We showed them we have a really good team, too. That’s the team we might play in the playoffs.”
Of course, you can argue this was not the Dodgers at full strength missing Cy Young Award pitching candidates in Julio Urias and the 16 wins of an injured Tony Gonsolin. The Mets, though, played above and beyond on the first day of September and checked every box with pitching and timely hitting.
They closed the deal and took a season series from the Dodgers for the first time since 2015, which was also their NL Championship year and last appearance in the World Series.
Above and beyond were the Mets. October could see the same, but remember the Dodgers are still holding that record and distinction as the best team in baseball.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network. Like, Comment, Subscribe