New York Mets: The Next 9 Games Will Decide Their 2011 Fate

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIApril 18, 2011

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - APRIL 01:  Mike Pelfrey #34 of the New York Mets walks off the mound during opening day against the Florida Marlins at Sun Life Stadium on April 1, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It was so important for the Mets to get off to a hot start this season. They need fans coming to games and spending money; they have a new manager and a new general manager who need to make their marks; and they have to silence their critics, or at least make them reconsider their preseason picks.

But now, after 16 games, the Mets are 5-11 and already six games behind the first place Philadelphia Phillies.

Mike Pelfrey has proven to be completely ineffective as the team's de facto No.1 starter (0-2, 9.72 ERA). The rest of the rotation hasn't pitched well, and now Chris Young, easily the Mets' best starter, is on the DL (big surprise).

Offensively, the Mets are getting nothing out of Angel Pagan (.169/.271/.254) and after a hot start, Willie Harris has taken a huge step back and cannot be an every-day player.

The only bright spot, if you're optimistic, is that Jason Bay is expected back from the DL on Tuesday, which would send Harris mercifully back to the bench.

If the Mets are going to turn their season around, it has to start now and there's no better time to do it.

Over the next nine games, the Mets will see the Houston Astros (5-11), the Arizona Diamondbacks (6-8) and the Washington Nationals (8-7).

Those are all very beatable teams and the Mets need to flex their muscles now or risk ending their season before they get out of April.

They'll play three against each before heading back into Philadelphia for another meet and beat, um, great with the Phillies.

The biggest problem is that, on paper, the Mets are better than their upcoming opponents. Yet you wouldn't know if by the Mets play on the field.

The Astros are seventh in the National League in team batting average (.262), while the Mets rank just 12th (.238). Other than that one stat, both teams are incredibly close statistically. But the Astros have had a much tougher schedule so far than the Mets.

The Mets won't see Brett Myers in this series, so that's a plus. But they still need to come out of this series with at least two wins.

The same goes for their series against the Diamondbacks and Nationals.

The Diamondbacks are having a tremendous season offensively, led by Miguel Montero (.391/.472/.652, two home runs), but they have no starting pitching and their bullpen has not pitched well.

However, the Mets know plenty about a weak starting rotation and bullpen so it will come down to keeping up offensively and trying to keep the Diamondbacks off the board.

The Mets have already seen the Nationals this season, when they dropped two out of three. But their starting rotation is even better than when the Mets last faced them (NL leading 2.45 ERA) and this time the Mets will be on the road.

Over their next nine games, the Mets HAVE to finish at least 6-3. But even that would only get them to 11-14 on the season. But these are winnable games. The best the Mets can do is go out there and play the games.

The worse they play, if they come out of these next three series 8-17, then all it will take to start the fire sale will be a match.

Pelfrey, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez are all potentially available if the Mets continue to spiral out of control.

Their schedule in May is very difficult so this thing can get ugly really fast (if it hasn't already) if the Mets don't show something over the next nine games.