It is fitting that the wild card representative for the National League come down the last game of the season. The Mets and Brewers each have an opportunity to defy the odds and make their way into the post-season, and wiping away a painful and tumultuous September.
The problem is only one of them will make it. Looking at both of these teams they are more alike than different and pretty much share the same issues. For long stretches this year they have both looked like playoff teams, dominating the competition. They have also gone long periods where they looked inept and can’t hit or pitch their way out of a paper bag. Hitting has not been the issue. Both teams have had their droughts, but are capable of scoring a lot of runs. Pitching has been the issue.
If it wasn’t for the Mets issues with their bullpen we would hear a lot more about the Brewers shortcomings. The Brewers is not as bad as New York’s pen, but they have been guilty of coughing up a lot of late leads as well. Eric Gagne has been a bust as a Brewer, and even though Solomon Torres is better than anything the Mets can throw out there to finish off a game, that doesn’t excuse Milwaukee from letting their closer from a year ago (Francisco Cordero) escape to the Reds. They would have been well served to pay him what he wanted when they saw what Gagne has produced.
The Mets’ bullpen woes have been well chronicled. Billy Wagner going down with an elbow injury didn’t help, and just made a bad situation worse. New York doesn’t have a reliable long reliever, set-up guy, or closer. It’s just hit or miss. When a starter goes out for the Mets it gives confidence to their opponent because they know they will score runs. It is amazing that the Mets are in this position at all.
Aaron Heilman has no confidence left and looks lost, and their closer, Luis Ayala is a castoff from the Washington Nationals. What amazes many is the fact that the Mets didn’t really try to improve their bullpen and they knew it was an area of need. Not even at the trade deadline did they try to make a deal, which to me was absurd given the state of their relievers. How or why Omar Minaya got an extension at this time doesn’t make sense either. Maybe it is because he has shown “evident progress” like Isiah Thomas did for the Knicks, or maybe it is a New York thing. Pay the executive before the collapse.
At least Milwaukee went out and got a difference maker during the year for their staff. Adding C.C. Sabathia to the rotation has been even bigger given Ben Sheet’s injury problems.
Both teams have also fired their respective managers because they were underachieving, and management felt a change was needed. The Brewers have bounced back well after Ned Yost's late season firing, and the Mets have played better under Jerry Manual despite their bullpen woes.
It would be fitting for both teams to win their last game of the year, and have to decide the wild card by a one game playoff. Milwaukee has a big edge. Sabathia will pitch for the Brewers on three days rest, and Oliver Perez, who couldn’t protect a four run lead against the Cubs this week goes for the Mets. One of these teams will experience redemption, while the other will be left to figure out how they collapsed two years in a row.
Should the Mets lose to the Marlins it will be a repeat performance of last year when they had a chance to make the post season with a win and Dontrel Willis turned them away with a win. They now have a chance to erase that memory.