The New York Mets are on their way to the postseason for the second consecutive season. In a year full of turmoil and injuries the Mets will be the National League’s number one wild card team, with home field to boot.
Tell any Met fan in April that they would be led by the likes of Robert Gsellman , Seth Lugo, T.J. Rivera and a revitalized Jose Reyes, James Loney and Jay Bruce, they would figure that this team would be nowhere near the postseason.
Losing Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom, as well as David Wright and Neil Walker for the season to injuries should have been the death nail to the 2016 Mets. It was not. They figured it out with guile and determination. Now they wait to see whom they will get in the “Win and In” Wild Card game.
The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are still battling it out for the final Wild Card slot. It appears increasing likely that the Mets will draw the Giants, but if they had to choose they probably pick the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have been inconsistent all season long. Like the Mets the Cardinals have displayed tremendous power, but they are a horrible situational team. Just the other night they left eight men in scoring position against Cincinnati and are hitting only .242 with runners in scoring position with two out. Stephen Piscotty (.358, 3 HR, 32 RBI) and Randal Grichuk (.286, 3 HR, 23 RBI) have been St. Louis’ best situational hitters while everyone else had struggled. The Cards third best situational hitter is Matt Holiday, who is now reduced to pinch hitting duty.
Not to mention, if the Mets draw Adam Wainwright on Wednesday, they are getting a Wainwright who had his worst season in the majors. He had an ERA of 4.67, and teams hit .288 against him. Not to mention the Mets recently tagged him for seven runs on nine hits in a start back in late August.
This is not to say that facing Wainwright and the Cardinals is a walk in the park. St. Louis had the fifth highest scoring offense in baseball, and Wainwright could reclaim his old self at any point. But, facing the Giants will not be fun, mainly because of two things: 1) their pitching and 2) the Giants have the most postseason experience of anyone in the tournament.
The Giants were rolling right along at 57-34 at the All Star Break before sinking fast, losing 37 of 59 games from July 15 to September 19. They haven’t been good, mainly because their offense does not score enough runs. Talk about the Cardinals struggles with runners in scoring position, San Fran is hitting .250 with runners in scoring position, and only .218 with RISP and two out.
Yet, they are still in it. Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto have carried that team, and the bullpen that was once shaky, now has Sergio Romo healthy to go along with Hunter Strickland and closer Santiago Casilla.
In the Wild Card Game, pitching will be the key. The Giants can choose between Bumgarner and Cueto, and both have pitched well against New York. Bumgarner would be on regular rest if he were to start against the Mets. He is 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA against them. While he hasn’t been the Bumgarner we are used to seeing over the past two months, every so often he has had a gem to remind us all how good he is. On September 19, he blanked the Dodgers over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. The Giants lost, but it was Bumgarner’s best start in a month.
If the Mets have to face him there is always the chance he could go out there and throw seven or eight shutout innings. With a Mets lineup that has been prone to poor hitting streaks themselves, he will not be a fun matchup.
If the Mets were to draw Cueto, he would be a nightmare as well. In September, Cueto was 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA. He even held the Mets to just a run on eight hits over seven innings in a 8-1 Giants win back on August 19.
The Mets are in, now can this patchwork group extend their stay longer than anyone ever thought possible?