The Mets are entering the second game of a nine-game homestand against the Indians, Braves, and Cubs that could go a long way toward determining their fate when it comes to playing in October.
Here are five storylines to keep an eye on...
Will this homestand help or hurt?
At the end of the homestand, the Mets hit the road for six games against the Phillies and Nationals, both of whom are competing with New York for the NL Wild Card. This is all the more reason why it's important for the Mets to take advantage while they're home.
The problem is that, during these nine games, every team they face is also either leading or within striking distance of a spot in the postseason. Oh, and after playing the Phillies and Nationals on the road, the Mets host the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, both of whom are also in the hunt for October.
It's a highly competitive, vital stretch. The Mets have played well this season at Citi Field regardless of the level of their competition. They have not played well on the road, especially when facing teams above .500.
The Mets are talented and hot enough to win the majority of the games these next eight days at Citi Field. If they do, they will -- at the very least -- give themselves some margin for error during September.
Will Pete Alonso become the new Mets home run champion?
It was fun while it lasted, Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran. But, at some point during this current nine-game homestand, in front of tens of thousands of the team's fans, rookie Pete Alonso -- who has 40 homers -- is likely going to become the franchise's new single-season home run champion. Hundley first hit 41 in 1996. Beltran hit 41 in 2006.
It's already been an amazing, powerful season for Alonso, who hit his first major league home run on April 1.
In the span of nearly five months; he's already broken the National League record for most home runs hit by a rookie before the All-Star break, he passed Darryl Strawberry for most home runs hit by a rookie in Mets history; he won the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby, and passed Cody Bellinger for most home runs ever hit by a National League rookie.
By the way, if Alonso finishes this season with 50 home runs or more, he will be roughly 20 percent of the way to becoming the franchise's all-time home run leader, a record currently held by Strawberry with 252.
Is the cavalry about to arrive?
It's quite possible that -- during the current homestand -- we could see Jeff McNeil hitting leadoff, followed in order by J.D. Davis, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Wilson Ramos, Amed Rosario, Todd Frazier and Brandon Nimmo -- with Jed Lowrie and Joe Panik on the bench.
McNeil has been out since Aug. 13 with a strained hamstring. He ran the bases and took batting practice Tuesday and could play in rehab games before returning. He is eligible to be activated Aug. 24. The current homestand ends Aug. 29.
Nimmo, who had a breakout season in 2018, has been on the IL since May 21 with a bulging disk in his neck. He continued his rehab assignment Tuesday with Triple-A Syracuse.
Lowrie, who I still have never seen in a Mets uniform, began a rehab assignment Tuesday in St. Lucie. He's been in Florida more or less the entire season recovering from a variety of injuries, including to his hip and hamstring.
How will losing Robert Gsellman impact the bullpen?
Gsellman was not having the best season of his career. However, given the up-and-down nature of the team's bullpen, losing anyone at any point is a concern. Due to his partially torn lat, Gsellman will almost certainly miss the remainder of the season.
Gsellman finally started finding success this season immediately after the All Star break. Now he's gone, which means the bullpen is down one reliever at a time when late-game relief becomes more important than usual.
In his place, Paul Sewald will need to step up and pitch like he did during most of 2017. He has struggled since, mostly due to injuries and a steady diet of promotions and demotions. He was added to the roster last week. He'll most likely just pitch in middle relief, but at this point in the season -- as arms grow tired and competition heats up -- every pitch is important. He has the experience and previous success. In Gsellman's absence, it would help if he could tap into it again.
Can Steven Matz keep it going?
It was less than one month ago that Mickey Callaway would not say whether or not Steven Matz would find his way out of the bullpen. He did and since then he has a 2.81 ERA, and has struck out 38 batters in 41.2 innings while allowing just three home runs.
Whether due to a slight to change to his position on the pitching rubber, being motivated by his temporary move to the bullpen, or something else, Matz looks like a different pitcher than he did earlier in the season. He looks free and easy, he's strategically commanding his innings and being far more economical with his pitches than at any point in his career.
Matz had been a liability during most of June and early July. However, since his start on July 16, he's been more productive (1.2 WAR) than Zack Wheeler (0.9 WAR) and nearly on par with Noah Syndergaard (1.5 WAR).
His next start is slated to be against the NL East-leading Braves. It will be the first time he has made back-to-back starts at Citi Field during his current hot streak, which includes three consecutive quality starts.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!