New York Mets: Why the Washington Nationals Series Is a Must-Win

Mike CorasanitiContributor IIIJuly 16, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 14:  R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets waits to bat against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on July 14, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's starting to look like the same old New York Mets.

How many times in the past decade have we seen it happen? The Mets come into the season as underdogs, they start to win a few games, go into the All-Star break above .500 and then slowly but surely fade off into irrelevancy.

I don't want to see it happen again—especially after months of so much promise. But in order for Johan Santana's no-hitter, David Wright's MVP-caliber season and R.A. Dickey's monster year to mean anything, the team can't start slipping.

At the moment, the team is within four games of an NL Wild Card lead. But with the Pittsburgh Pirates entering a three-game set with the lowly Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning a series with the slumping Philadelphia Phillies, striking distance for the Mets can quickly turn into a hole too deep to dig out of.

A winning baseball season is a process, and a successful process for the New York Mets is going to have to start this week against the first place Washington Nationals.

Considering the way both clubs have been playing, the Nationals will be undoubtedly be a tough match for New York. You might think they’re getting lucky by the fact that they aren’t schedule to face Stephen Strasburg, but Jordan Zimmermann and his 2.48 ERA alongside Gio Gonzalez and his 12 wins will be no walk in the park.

Part of me thinks that the team is going to get lucky if it manages to win one of their next three games. And honestly, salvaging one game might be enough. Two out of three would be better, but what the Amazins really need to do at this point is make a stand—and that starts with the little things.

The little things include having a bullpen that doesn't let close leads become blow-out losses week after week, having more consistent production from the plate other than Wright, and having Terry Collins continue to be Terry Collins.