With one of the worst post-All-Star break stretches in club history, the forecast doesn't look too bright for the New York Mets.
Starting Tuesday, the Mets have the toughest possible six-game stretch in baseball, with three games in Cincinnati (the Reds currently lead the NL Central with the second-best record in the league) followed by three games in Washington against the NL East-leading Nationals (who just so happen to have the best record in the league).
But before that nightmare begins, the Mets still have one more game to play tonight: a possible series-sweep-clinching game for the Atlanta Braves on national television.
Tonight's game in New York is important for a couple reasons. First, from a pessimistic point of view, this will probably be the last win the Mets can salvage for a while.
Yes, the Mets get a break next week when Colorado comes into town for four games followed by the Astros for three, but with the aforementioned horrific week ahead, the Mets could very well have a nine-game losing streak on their hands by the time the Rockies roll into town.
Second, it would obviously be nice to not be swept by the Braves. Excluding last year's collapse, Atlanta loves rubbing in the fact that they always have better second halves than the Mets. Plus, the Braves didn't even have super-Met killer Chipper Jones in the lineup on Friday. How could they not take advantage of that?
Third, and in my opinion most importantly, the Mets have something to prove to the country tonight. Take a look at every single preseason poll for this season. Who was picked to finish last in almost every single one? The Mets.
Then came the first half of the season, and the media ate up (cautiously) everything the Mets had to offer. David Wright was killing it, R.A. Dickey was unstoppable, Johan Santana was unhittable, and the Mets were winning while having a lot of fun along the way. But of course, the burning question that couldn't escape the minds of viewers and reporters alike was the same: When was this run going to end?
Unfortunately, it feels like everybody has the answer to that question. Shortly before the All-Star break, somewhere in their 7-0 loss to the Cubs on July 8, the Mets became the team that most of America expected them to be. But it doesn't have to end this way.
A win tonight won't necessarily be the catalyst to a miraculous first-place run for New York, nor will it necessarily be the spark that leads them to that intriguing second wild-card spot. The Mets aren't going to win the World Series this year, though the 10-year-old in me doesn't want me to even admit that yet.
But they're not a team that deserves to be left out of the playoffs, and they are certainly not a team that deserves to finish below .500. They're a good team. Not an amazing team this year, but a team that can give a lot of clubs out there a run for their money.
So maybe a win tonight won't be the spark the Mets need to turn their season around. But it will definitely be something that will make the country stop and think, even just for a second, that maybe New York isn't completely out of it just yet.