NEW YORK — In total, the Mets (100-61) have spent 175 days this season in first place, which is almost every day but the one that matters most.
Despite controlling the National League East almost wire-to-wire – keyword: almost – the Mets will finish second and settle for the No. 4 seed in the NL. Their consolation prize is a Wild Card series against the Padres at Citi Field on Friday, Saturday and (if necessary) Sunday, which should not be confused with a simple party favor. The Mets’ World Series hopes remain alive and well, even as their path to the pennant has become more thorny.
Although the Mets’ official elimination of the division title took place at 9:50 p.m. ET on Tuesday, their actual elimination occurred last weekend, when the Braves swept them in a crucial 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 rendered the New York Nationals double sweep moot. (The Mets won their games, 4-2 and 8-0, behind Brandon Nimmo’s big day and three straight home runs to open the last drink.)
“It’s like I told them when we left Atlanta,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Everything is still there for them.”
Games remaining: 1
Ranking update: Second place, 1 game behind the Braves
Status of playoffs: Locked in No. 4 seed, will host Padres on Friday
With just one day left in the regular season, the Mets’ priorities have shifted to resting their regulars and lining up their pitchers for the Wild Card Series. That process began midway through Tuesday’s innings, when Showalter replaced four of its stars just minutes after the Braves clinched. One of the backups, Francisco Álvarez, responded with his first career hit – a 439-foot homer to the second deck in left center field.
On Wednesday, the Mets will conclude the regular season with a bullpen game that will make no sense in the standings, except 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 in the footsteps of the team from 1969 (100-62), ’86 (108-54) and ’88 (100-60).
“A hundred wins is no reason to turn a nose,” said Nimmo, who went 6-for-8 with two home runs and six RBIs in the double sweep. “It’s only been done four times here, and two of those teams are World Series champions. It’s a good thing 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 being knocked out of the division race.
The Mets had already been preparing 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 long,” which explains his quick action once Atlanta finally knocked them out.
What’s important, Showalter said, is that the Mets understand they are still World Series contenders, even if their road to October is now more difficult. It begins Friday with a talented Padres squad that includes superstars Manny Machado and Juan Soto, along with 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 take on the 110-game rested Dodgers, one of the best regular-season teams in MLB history. Sailing successfully could pit the Mets against the defending champion Braves or the ever-dangerous NL Championship Series Cardinals for a pennant shot.
Despite their disappointments, despite the road ahead, the Mets remain confident that’s what 100 wins will do to a team. They’re ready to shed the late-September residue and strike a different tone as October progresses.
“We’ve had an amazing year,” infielder Jeff McNeil said. “A hundred wins is not easy to achieve. Often, 100 wins will win the division quite easily. So, having met the Braves this year, they played great baseball. In addition to that first month, they played fantasy baseball. You have to somehow give it to them. But at the same time, 100 wins is exciting.