The New York Mets begin a critical stretch tonight in their quest to end a three-year playoff drought. The Mets entered the break having dropped back-to-back series at home against the Reds and the Braves, and failing to win any of their previous four series. The team has played below .500 since consecutive sweeps of Cleveland and Baltimore, the AL's bottom two teams, in mid-June.
The first thirty days out of the break will effectively measure the Mets' playoff-worthiness. The team begins an eleven-game west coast swing, including eight against the Dodgers and Giants. They come home to the Cardinals, a breather series with Arizona, and then it's back to the grind with road series against the Braves and Phillies, before returning home to the Rockies and another go with Philly.
Adding to the team's concerns is Mike Pelfrey's complaint of a dead arm. The right-hander was smacked around in his two starts prior to the break. With John Maine out indefinitely, the rotation is a concern. On the plus side, Carlos Beltran is back and appears to be healthy, which will provide a boost in the lineup and the clubhouse.
By August 15, when this killer stretch ends, New York fans will know what kind of team they have in the Mets. If they're still in it a month from now, the schedule lightens up considerably, and the team will be in line for a nice stretch run. The question is, will they still be in the running by then?