To begin the final week of baseball’s regular season, a question: What would have to happen for the Mets to make the playoffs?
The short answer is “a whole heck of a lot.”
The long answer is … well, keep reading.
“That was a solid road trip,” manager Mickey Callaway said Sunday afternoon after the Mets beat the Reds to win a second series on the road trip, at a time of year when winning two out of every three games probably isn’t enough. “You want to [win] all of them at this point, but good road trip, we’re playing good baseball. But let’s see if we can continue to put pressure on others.”
What if merely solid isn’t good enough?
“It has to be,” Callaway said. “We can’t dwell on the past. We've got to keep moving forward and do what we’ve done all season and focus on the next game.”
The Mets’ chances of making the playoffs are, to be clear, very small. Such is life when you have an elimination number of four.
But it is not impossible. Here is what the National League wild-card standings look like.
Nationals: 85-69, 0 game back
Brewers: 86-70, 0 games back
Cubs: 82-74, 4 games back
Mets: 81-74, 4 1/2 games back
Phillies: 79-75, 6 games back
Diamondbacks: 80-76, 6 games back
For the purposes of this exercise, let’s focus on the Nats and the Brewers (virtually tied for the two wild-card spots) and the Mets. This assumes that, if everything else goes the Mets’ way, the toiling Cubs, Phillies and D-backs will continue to toil enough not to be factors.
A quick look at the teams’ remaining schedules:
Nationals: five vs. Phillies, three vs. Indians
Brewers: three at Reds, three at Rockies
Mets: four vs. Marlins, three vs. Braves
If the Mets go 7-0 the rest of the way, to earn a tie for the last wild card they need the Nationals to go 3-5 or the Brewers to go 2-4.
If the Mets go 6-1 the rest of the way, to earn a tie for the last wild card they need the Nationals to go 2-6 or the Brewers to go 1-5.
Given the Brewers’ bad opponents — and their 17-4 record in September, and their general excellence even after losing Christian Yelich to injury — a total collapse seems very unlikely.
That means the Mets’ best shot at the playoffs involves the Nationals — who have the second-worst bullpen ERA in the majors — falling apart. Plus the Mets wrecking the Marlins and Braves. Plus the Cubs not going on a similar run.
And if all that happens? The Mets and Nationals would play a one-game playoff (for the right to face the Brewers in the one-game wild-card playoff). By virtue of the Mets winning the season series, that hypothetical tiebreaker would be at Citi Field next Monday.