The Mets have been atop the National League East since May 8, which is a reign of 78 consecutive days, their longest streak since 2007.
Ah yes, 2007. That number really jumps off the page.
Because among the glass-half-full population, it’s not about what the Mets (51-43) already have done to stay in first place for nearly four months now. Such as overcoming a staggering amount of injuries, from the heart of the lineup to the front of the rotation, to not only stay afloat, but at times maintain the biggest cushion among all division leaders.
Instead, the conversation has turned to whether or not the Mets can finish as the East champs -- for the first time since 2015 -- or even make the playoffs, which they haven’t done since the wild-card loss to the Giants at Citi Field the following season. That’s the troubling part whenever ’07 pops up, because we all know the Mets had the division practically clinched -- until they didn’t, blowing a seven-game lead to the Phillies with 17 games to play.
But the point here isn’t to suggest the ghosts of ’07 are haunting this bunch. The ’21 Mets seem to be riding more than a Home Run Horse in creating a team-wide mojo that’s carried them through some challenging periods, to say the least. So here’s the question now: where do the Mets sit as far as nailing this thing down?
Aside from Jacob deGrom’s unsettling forearm stiffness -- which was not expected to be a long-term injury -- Luis Rojas & Co. should like their chances heading into this final week before the trade deadline. They’re in the midst of playing 11 games in 10 days at Citi, where they had a .674 winning percentage (29-14) through Friday’s victory over the Blue Jays and a 2.43 ERA.
Offensively, after Pete Alonso went deep twice Friday night, the Mets have 18 homers since the All-Star break, the most in the majors during that stretch, and their .881 OPS since then ranks second overall, behind only the Nationals (.936).
So what do the Mets need in the second half? For starters, another starting pitcher or two, either some combination of deGrom and Carlos Carrasco/Noah Syndergaard and likely a significant trade to follow Friday’s emergency addition of the wily lefthanded veteran Rich Hill. They also have a killer seven-game West Coast trip next month when they visit the Giants (Aug. 16-18) and Dodgers (Aug. 19-22). We won’t label that one a make-or-break, but the Giants come to Citi that following week as well, so it’s a big test to see how the Mets measure up outside the division as well.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the not-so-beastly East, for those worried about the ghosts of ’07 - or just wondering how they stack up in the two-plus months ahead (through Friday’s games). As for the NL wild card, that’s likely going to be the consolation prize between the two losers of the Giants-Dodgers-Padres derby out west, so we’ll focus on the East opponents here.
Games behind: N/A
Rotation ERA: 2.98 (1st in NL)
Bullpen ERA: 4.10 (7th)
Team OPS: Overall: .700 (9th)/July: .808 (3rd)
Runs/Game: 3.94 (13th)
Best player: Pete Alonso. With Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor out indefinitely, it’s up to the Polar Bear to make good on his Derby pledge of being the "best power hitter on the planet." This month, Alonso leads the Mets in HRs (8), RBIs (16) and slugging percentage (.634).
The road ahead: The Mets need more pitching help, period, and need to devote their trade capital to that purpose. With the offense finally cranking it up as expected, Kris Bryant is a luxury that can wait.
Games behind: 4
Games left vs. Mets: 3 (at Phi, Aug. 6-8)
Rotation ERA: 4.21 (10th in NL)
Bullpen ERA: 4.64 (12th)
Team OPS: Overall: .717 (7th)/July: .793 (5th)
Runs/Game: 4.52 (6th)
Best player: Rhys Hoskins. The Phillies don’t struggle to score, and Hoskins is the engine for that, with team highs in HRs (21), RBIs (58) and games played (95). Surprisingly, Andrew McCutchen isn’t far behind (17 HRs, 52 RBIs).
The road ahead: Despite the Phillies’ best efforts this offseason, the bullpen remains a problem, and dropping those two games to a depleted Yankees’ team this past week was not a good look. GM Dave Dombrowski has made his reputation on burning prospects for the present, so expect the Phillies to buy into this race.
Games behind: 5
Games left vs. Mets: 8 (at NY, July 26-29; at ATL, Oct. 1-3)
Rotation ERA: 3.98 (7th in NL)
Bullpen ERA: 4.57 (11th)
Team OPS: Overall .745 (4th)/July: .730 (11th)
Runs/Game: 4.71 (5th)
Best player: Freddie Freeman. Well, it was Ronald Acuna, who was in the MVP discussion before knee surgery ended his season. But it’s Freeman, the defending MVP, who is relied on to carry this club - though he’s getting a big assist from Ozzie Albies lately (team-best 63 RBIs).
The road ahead: The Braves traded for Joc Pederson in the wake of Acuna’s stunning injury, but they’ll need more to cover for his loss, as well as bullpen help. They can put a serious dent in the Mets’ lead this coming week at Citi in a five-game series, including Monday’s doubleheader.
Games behind: 7
Games left vs. Mets: 11 (6 at NY Aug. 10-12, 27-29/5 at WSH Sept. 3-6)
Rotation ERA: 4.28 (11th in NL)
Bullpen ERA: 4.45 (10th)
Team OPS: Overall: .748 (3rd)/July: .812 (2nd)
Runs/Game: 4.35 (8th)
Best player: Juan Soto. After getting derailed early by a hamstring injury, Soto has caught fire this month, with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 18 games. Overall, Trea Turner put together the most complete season so far (.316/.365/.520) with 18 HRs in a team-high 92 games.
The road ahead: The key number is that 11 games against the Mets. But will the Nats stay competitive enough to buy enough at the deadline? GM Mike Rizzo suggested a "dual path," which does not sounds like a guy who’s all-in this year.
Games behind: 12
Games left vs. Mets: 14 (7 at Mia, Aug. 2-5, Sept. 7-9; 7 at NY, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, Sept. 28-30.
Rotation ERA: 3.60 (5th in NL)
Bullpen ERA: 3.52 (4th)
Team OPS: Overall: .671 (15th)/.665 (15th)
Runs/Game: 3.87 (14th)
Best player: Trevor Rogers. The Marlins’ strength is pitching, and Rogers -- a rookie of the year favorite who should also get Cy Young votes -- has been the ace (2.37 ERA, 1.09 WHIP).
The road ahead: The Marlins have plenty of sell candidates by the June 30 deadline, with Starling Marte at the top of that list. As far as the Mets are concerned, the Marlins visit Flushing in the final week -- just like the collapses of ’07 and ’08 -- so they will have another chance to play spoilers down the stretch, if it comes to that.