In the Mets clubhouse Wednesday evening, after a season ending three-game sweep over the Nationals, there were lingering questions about winning 101 games and allowing the Braves to win their fifth straight NL East division title.
The questions were quickly answered. The Braves are not their main objective at this time as they head to their first postseason since 2016, though they could eventually meet again in a few weeks if October baseball allows the division rivals to advance.
The objective now is to take care of business and win two games from the San Diego Padres beginning Friday night at Citi Field. The best two-of three NL Wild Card series was not in their plan but the Braves were the better team last weekend.
They talked about momentum and perhaps this Mets team has that mojo after a devastating and losing weekend down in Atlanta. Then again, winning three straight to close the season, against the 55-107 Nationals, a team with the distinction of finishing with the worst record in baseball, is a good way to build momentum heading into the postseason.
Jeff McNeil, the newly crowned 2022 MLB batting champion, after edging the Braves’ Freddie Freeman, will get a new car thanks to Francisco Lindor’s offer from earlier this season.
But McNeil, and the entire Mets clubhouse know their next objective is not about a new car. They need to beat the Padres and get some sort of redemption. Beat the Padres and the Mets take on the Dodgers and their 111 wins.
Get by the Dodgers in the best-of-five NLDS. If the Braves move on, yeah, a Braves-Mets rematch in the NLCS. It’s October postseason baseball, again, though, the Mets are focused on the Padres.
A Padres team, that is vastly improved, took four-of-six from the Mets this season, including two of three at Citi Field. The Padres with trade deadline acquisition Juan Soto and NL MVP candidate Manny Machado, are a formidable opponent.
And a Padres team that will open Game 1 with Yu Darvish (16-8, 3.10 ERA). It was Darvish in late July at Citi Field, who gave the Padres 1-earned run, 7-innings, and 9 strikeouts against the Mets. Of course, Game 1 is the objective for the Mets with Max Scherzer (11-5, 2.29).
“He’s [Darvish] a great pitcher, I am sure a lot of these guys remember how he pitched against us in the past,” commented McNeil. “He’s pitched well but that was a learning experience for the playoffs. I am sure guys are going to remember those at bats and see the best way to approach him.”
But McNeil will need to continue his momentum against Darvish, a challenge, considering career numbers of .091. 1-for 11, with a home run, 2 RBI, a walk, and two strikeouts. Numbers that don’t reflect the first Met to win an overall MLB season batting title.
“Friday’s going to be kind of a different beast,”McNeil said “It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be rocking. “We’ve got to be ready to play. It’s going to be a lot of fun and looking forward to it.’
Manager Buck Showalter reiterated Wednesday, the objective was moving on. All the negative buzz about the Mets and their failures against the Braves were in the past. It’s the Padres now with their starting pitching and stopping their potent lineup.
“The Padres are obviously a really good club and we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Showalter said. “The type of pitching we have seen the last month you are going to see again the rest of the way.”
Said Mark Canha, who finished a strong first season in New York. “We have to look internally.” He was saying as a team, the Mets have to play their best baseball. The Braves swept three games and that was a postseason atmosphere for most of this Mets team.
Now, though, these are the Padres. They want the same thing in October as one of three NL Wild Card teams that could never bypass the Dodgers.
“Any team that makes the postseason is going to be tough to beat,” McNeill said. “But I’m sure they are saying the same thing about us.”
The Mets need Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor, who combined for a league leading 238 RBI in their lineup, to get on base and drive in runs. They failed do that against the Braves.
“Fewer games, more urgency,” Chris Bassitt said about the postseason and this upcoming Wild Card Series at Citi Field. He could be in the equation and pitch a decisive Game 3 on Sunday.
And, yes, after that Braves series there has to be urgency from the Mets. They were built to play in October with Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, most likely getting the Game 2 start.
The objective was the Braves, and that has passed. Now it’s the Wild Card Padres who have the same goals to move on in October.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] 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.