The Mets finished off a nightmarish road trip where they lost all but one game, getting swept by the Atlanta Braves and then losing another series to the Washington Nationals. As of now, the Mets currently stand at 47-45, third place in the NL East and fourth in the wild card, behind the Dodgers, Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With the unpleasant revelation that Dillon Gee is out for an extended period of time, and both Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins' unwillingness to bring up new arms like Matt Harvey, this next stretch of games is crucial for the Mets to maintain their playoff hopes.
The Mets start with a three game set against the Dodgers, who fittingly are two games up on them in the wild card, then a three game revenge set against the first place Nationals.
After that, they go out to the West Coast to begin the drudgery of a road trip, with games against the Diamondbacks, the Giants, and the Padres. Following that, the Mets have a three game home series against the Miami Marlins, then a crucial three game set against Atlanta.
This stretch is arguably one of the most important stretches of the season, as the Mets have to face the stiffest competition. If they want to gain some footing in the wild card, they must sweep the Dodgers and win two out of three against Washington, and hope that Atlanta, who plays four games against Washington, one of which is a doubleheader, loses, at the least, three out of four.
Atlanta then will face the Miami Marlins, who will be without their most important weapon, Giancarlo Stanton. Even if the Braves lose one game against Miami, that, coupled with a Mets win, will give them a jump on the wild card race.
The Mets had plenty of success against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, winning three out of four; their only black mark was a loss against Clayton Kershaw. In this stretch, they will be facing Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Nathan Eovaldi.
Will the Mets succeed in this crucial stretch?
Of the three, Capuano probably will be the toughest to beat, especially with Miguel Batista opposing him. Another concern is the return of Matt Kemp, who came back with a bang in his first game. Silencing Matt Kemp not only will win half the battle, it could spell success in the form of wins.
On the off chance that the Mets face Stephen Strasburg, they had better hope that the supposed innings cap sets in relatively quickly. Strasburg has been nothing short of dominant this year, leading the NL in strikeouts.
He has been downright unhittable, and while the Nationals bullpen has been extremely solid, especially with Tyler Clippard closing and with Drew Storen finally coming back, the Mets have better not give them a reason to deploy their back end relief.
The bane of the West Coast trip will also be very important, as there is a series against the NL west leading Giants. The Mets should approach this series with a fire in their belly, as both David Wright and RA Dickey were cheated out of starts in the All-Star Game by Pablo Sandoval and Matt Cain. If they do have the chance to face Matt Cain, and if RA Dickey happens to oppose him that day, you know that that game will be an important one to watch.
Finally, the Braves series.
Coming off a sweep at the hands of the Braves is not fun, but with the success of the Mets against the Braves at Citi Field this year (including the opening series), they had better hope that the same thing happens again. If so, the Mets may find themselves in a favorable position by the end of this crucial stretch, maybe even with some fresh blood added in order to aid their playoff cause.
This stretch is definitely the most important one for the Mets this year. They must take all of these series, if they want to gain better positioning in the wild card race.