NEW YORK — In all, the Mets (100-61) have spent 175 days of this season in first place, which is almost every day but the one that matters most.
Despite dominating the National League East almost wire-to-wire — key word: almost — the Mets will finish in second and settle for the NL’s No. 4 seed. Their consolation prize is a Wild Card Series against the Padres at Citi Field on Friday, Saturday and (if necessary) Sunday, which shouldn’t be mistaken for a mere party favor. The Mets’ World Series hopes remain very much alive, even if their path to the pennant has grown thornier.
Although the Mets’ official elimination from division title contention took place at 9:50 pm ET on Tuesday, their effective elimination occurred last weekend when the Braves swept them in a decisive three-game series in Atlanta. All the Braves needed to do from there was apply the finishing touches, which they did with a win over the Marlins in Miami that made the nationals’ double-header sweep of New York questionable. (The Mets won their games, 4-2 and 8-0behind Brandon Nimmothe big day of and three consecutive home runs to open the nightcap.)
“It’s like I told them when we left Atlanta,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Everything is still there for them.”
Remaining games: 1
Reputation update: Second place1 game behind the Braves
Final situation: Locked in the No. 4 seed, will host Padres on Friday
With one day left in the regular season, the Mets’ priorities have shifted to resting their regulars and lining up their pitching for the Wild Card Series. That process began in the middle innings on Tuesday, when Showalter subbed four of his stars just minutes after the Braves had clinched. One of the substitutes, Francisco Alvarezreplied with his first career success — a 439-foot home run to the second deck in left-center field.
On Wednesday, the Mets will end the regular season with a bullpen game that will be meaningless in the standings, except for the fact that a win would give them the second most wins in franchise history. This is the fourth version of the Mets to win 100 games, following the footsteps of the team (100-62), ’86 (108-54) and ’88 (100-60).
“A hundred wins is nothing to turn your nose up at,” said Nimmo, who went 6-for-8 with two home runs and six RBIs in the doubleheader. “It’s only been done four times here, and two of those teams are World Series champions. It feels good to win 100 games here. So we’re very, very proud of that, and we should be. But yeah, there’s definitely some disappointment in finally getting knocked out of the division race.”
The Mets have been bracing themselves for such a disappointment since Sunday, when their three straight losses to the Braves made them heavy underdogs to win the NL East. Showalter even admitted that “we knew it was a long shot,” which explains his quick action after Atlanta finally eliminated them.
What’s important, Showalter said, is for the Mets to understand that they are still very much a World Series contender, even though their road through October is now more difficult. It will begin Friday with a talented Patros team that features superstars Manny Machado and Juan Soto, as well as a dynamic rotation trio of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. If the Mets survive that, their reward will be a trip to Los Angeles for the NL Division Series to face the resting 110-win Dodgers, one of the top regular-season teams in MLB history. Successfully navigating that could put the Mets up against the defending champion Braves or the ever-dangerous Cardinals in the NL Championship Series for a shot at the pennant.
Despite their disappointments, despite the road ahead, the Mets remain confident, which is what 100 wins will do to a team. They’re ready to shed the leftovers of late September and strike a different tone as October rolls around.
“We had an unbelievable year,” infielder Jeff McNeil said “One hundred victories is not easy to do. A lot of times, 100 wins will win the division pretty easily. So having to face the Braves this year, they played some great baseball. Other than that first month, they played amazing baseball. You have to give it to them a little bit. But at the same time, 100 wins is exciting.”