Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Dog Days of Summer Might Be Happy Days For the Mets

The Mets hope to provide both bark and bite in the month of August.

The dog days of summer are upon us.  And while the month after the All-Star break is usually the time when some baseball teams start to fade, this is the time when the Mets have to heat up if they want to pass the Washington Nationals to claim an unlikely division title.

The month of July was supposed to be the big test for the Mets.  New York faced all three National League division leaders in the month (Washington, St. Louis, Los Angeles) and two of the league's wild card contenders (San Francisco, Chicago), yet still managed to record more wins than losses in the month, going 13-12 to keep their playoff hopes alive.  The Mets managed to gain 1½ games on the Nationals in July, as Washington stumbled to an 11-13 record in the month.

Now that the calendar has shifted to August, the schedule becomes much softer for the Mets.  They began the month with a thrilling, come-from-behind, Duda-powered victory over the Nationals, and after tonight's series finale against Washington, the schedule is loaded with sub-.500 team after sub-.500 team.

Beginning with Monday's game against the Miami Marlins, the Mets play 31 games over the next five weeks.  The only teams they face that currently have a winning record between tomorrow and Labor Day are the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles.  New York will host Pittsburgh from August 14-16, followed by a two-game series in Baltimore on August 18 and 19.  However, it should be noted that the Pirates have a losing record on the road (25-26), which is where they would find themselves when they take on the Mets at Citi Field in two weeks, while the Orioles are above .500 with a 53-50 record, or half a game behind the Mets, who are 54-50.

That leaves 26 out of 31 games against the likes of the Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox between tomorrow and September 6.  The combined record of those five teams is 225-296, which suits the Mets just fine, as they have been feasting this season against teams they have a better record than, going 35-20 against those clubs.

While the Mets play just five of their next 31 games against teams that are currently below .500, the Nationals have to play ten games against the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals - all on the road - between tomorrow and Labor Day.  Those three teams are a combined 53 games above .500 and are 105-57 in their home games.  It should be noted that the Nationals are three games under .500 on the road this year.

The Mets have suffered some heartbreaking losses this year, but have still managed to remain in the hunt for their first division title since 2006.  They survived July, gaining ground on the first place Nationals despite playing an arduous schedule.  Over the next five weeks, the pendulum swings decidedly in their favor, as they face second division team after second division team - teams that shipped off several of their best players at the trade deadline - while the Nats have to travel to face some of the best teams the league has to offer.

The hottest days of the year could feature some of the best baseball played by the Mets since the team moved to Citi Field in 2009.  The Mets must take advantage of their upcoming soft schedule if they don't want to melt away in the N.L. East standings.

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