After yet another tantalizing hot streak, the New York Mets have come back down to earth and taken on their more familiar role as an average yet inconsistent ball club.
The Mets, who swept a four-game set in Cincinnati last week, dropped two out of three to the reeling Washington Nationals over the weekend, dropping their record to 55-53 on the season. To make matters worse, the Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves took two out of three this weekend from the Florida Marlins, pushing the Mets to 7.5 games off the pace in the Wild Card hunt.
However, there's still a faint glimmer of hope in Mets land.
With the Braves set to arrive in Queens for a three-game series next weekend, the Mets continue to hold out optimism that their season can be revived.
The Amazins will play host to the Marlins this week, and if they find a way to pick up a couple of games on Atlanta during that stretch, they can put themselves in optimal position ahead of the weekend showdown.
For all intents and purposes, the fate of the 2011 Mets will be sealed by this time next week. Either they'll be in the thick of the wild card race, or they'll find themselves on the outside looking in after failing to capitalize on yet another golden opportunity.
I'm not going to drag you down fantasy road here, but for argument's sake, let's say that the Mets win two out of three this week against the Marlins, while the Braves drop two of three from Washington.
That would put the Mets at 6.5 games behind the Braves, with a chance to cut that lead in half awaiting them.
In a perfect world, the Mets could very well be just 3.5 games behind the Braves after the dust is settled on this weekend's series.
However, as Mets fans we're hardly that naive. We've been groomed to expect the worst, especially in recent years.
After this weekend's disheartening performance against the Nationals, what's more likely to occur is that the Mets will drop two of three from the Marlins (a team they've gone 1-3 against in the past two weeks), and then lose two to the Braves.
That would build a Braves lead in the wild card standings that may prove to be insurmountable, thus putting an end to the starry-eyed dreams that the Mets had of making a playoff run in 2011.
But who knows?
Maybe the Mets come out firing this week, re-energized by the Citi FIeld faithful, and sweep the Marlins. Maybe the Braves somehow get swept by the Nationals. Maybe the Mets sweep the Braves?
Like I've said time and time again in this space, It's a maybe world in Mets land.
What the Mets need to do is develop that killer instinct that seemed to abandon them for most of the season, but then appeared to be rediscovered following their success in Cincinnati. They seemed to lose it once again this weekend in Washington, but they can redeem themselves with a strong showing at Citi Field this week.
In other words, it's time to start showing some consistency.
Make no mistake about it: the life of the 2011 Mets is hanging in the balance of the next six games. Even with a solid performance this week, the Mets still may not have the wherewithal to sustain such a high level of play during the stretch run, but they'll certainly make things interesting.
After all, meaningful games in September– isn't that our rallying cry as Mets fans?