The Mets suddenly have a reasonable chance at winning the second Wild Card. And I'll admit it -- as recently as just two weeks ago, I didn't expect to be writing those words.
To be fair, I'm not yet fully convinced that their current seven-game winning streak is an indication of how they'll perform during this season's final 54 games. Then again, there are two reasons to think they may be able to win enough games -- probably 33 or so -- to climb over the four games and three teams between them and playing in October.
Mickey Callaway's squad has won 13 of their last 18 games, all of which started the day after the All Star break. This is impressive, but 12 of those games were against teams who are below .500. Four were against the Giants (under .500 at the time, over. 500 now, and two were against the Twins). The easy schedule continues through next Thursday's off-day, prior to which the Mets travel to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates and then host the Marlins for four games at Citi Field.
It's fair to assume Callaway and his players will continue to rack up more wins than losses during that time, especially with momentum and the league's most talented starting rotation on their side.
The common theme in baseball has always been that you're not allowed to talk about your team's postseason chances until they are above .500. If the Mets win five of their next seven, they'll begin play next Friday one game over .500 at 58-57, which would be a terrific accomplishment since it wasn't long ago that they were sinking like a stone.
And if they get to next Friday at or above .500, it will make the three-game series with the Wild Card-leading Nationals that begins that night at Citi Field an enormous one.
In either case, I hope they get their rest, because they're going to need it.
As noted Thursday, while the Mets have played the sixth-most difficult schedule in the National League to date, tracking sites state they now have the sixth-easiest schedule the rest of the way.
Part of that favorable total includes next week's four-game series against the Marlins, who are the worst team in baseball. After that, the Mets play 30 of their remaining 47 games against the Braves, Phillies, Indians, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers, all of whom are either leading or contending for a spot in the postseason.
In other words, if the Mets want to keep themselves within striking distance of one of the two Wild Card spots, let alone actually take over the lead, they'll need to keep beating the league's worst teams, but also start playing better against the league's best.
For instance, if they win 70 percent of their remaining 24 games against teams under .500, which is how they've been treating that level team since the break, but if they lose 70 percent of the games played against teams over .500, which is what they've done to date, they'll end the season with just 78-80 wins. This is slightly less than what Baseball Prospectus currently calculates and projects to be the team's final win total, which they have around 84 wins.
In either case, be it 78 or 84, the total will almost certainly fall short of squeaking in to the one-game Wild Card game. It's not impossible, though, which leads me to what may help the Mets pull off an unexpected miracle...
Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler have pitched well (combined 3.50 ERA) against NL teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, however, have struggled. Jason Vargas got torched against all but the Phillies, which is the team he's now playing for thanks to Brodie Van Wagenen.
In place of Vargas is now Marcus Stroman, who has not faced any of the teams currently on target for the NL postseason. He has pitched well during Interleague play throughout his career, though that is hardly a good predictor of how he'll perform against the league's best teams right now.
In the end, the Mets get to the Wild Card game if they keep winning against teams under .500, Stroman stymies NL teams that haven't seen him and if Syndergaard (who has seemingly rediscovered his slider) and Matz can get their act together against above-average rosters.
The above is easier said than done. It's not probable, but it's certainly possible.
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!