The New York Mets enter the final two months of the season trailing the Atlanta Braves by 7.5 games in the wild-card race. The Mets have nine games left against the Braves to try to make up some ground on the current wild-card leader.
The schedule also falls in the Met's favor, as the only teams above .500 the Mets play in September are the Cardinals, Braves and Phillies for three games apiece. Further, the Phillies series comes in the final week of the season when they will have presumably wrapped up the division.
However, for the Mets to make a serious wild-card run, the Mets need to take their favorable schedule and translate it into success on the field. Here are five bold predictions for the New York Mets stretch run if they want to stand a chance at the playoffs.
During the month of July, Duda hit .300 with two HRs and 10 RBI in 70 ABs, while Beltran had a .280 average, three HRs and 13 RBI in 82 ABs; not as big a difference as one might think.
Further, Duda's game-tying two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth proves he has a clutch quality that Mets fans unfortunately never experienced with Beltran.
If Duda can produce better numbers than Beltran while he is adjusting to life with the Giants (where he's started 2-for-17), the Mets will contend for the Wild Card.
The latest report from MLB.com's Anthony DiComo has Johan Santana hopefully returning by the end of August if his rehab continues on pace. Not only do the Mets need that to happen, but they also need him to pitch like the Johan of old if they want to compete.
Since Johan went down with shoulder surgery last year, the Mets have not had a true ace to anchor their rotation. They were hoping Pelfrey could step into that role this year, but he has regressed from his 15-win season last year.
Johan has not had a season ERA below 3.13 in his time with Mets and they are going to need five quality starts from him when he comes off the DL if they want to have a chance.
It's an understatement to say Jason Bay has been disappointing in his short tenure so far with the Mets. With his home run Monday night against the Marlins, Bay has seven home runs on the season.
In order for the Mets to have a chance in the post-Beltran era, they're going to need production in the middle of the lineup and that means getting the Jason Bay they thought they were getting when they signed him for $66 million.
Bay has been heating up in recent weeks, and went the opposite way on his home run on Monday night, which is a sign he could be regaining the form that propelled him to 36 home runs with the Red Sox in 2009.
After Friday's win against the Nationals, Gee improved his record to 10-3 with a 3.69 ERA and finds himself among the top three candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year award. The other two contenders are Braves teammates first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is hovering around a .300 average with 15 HR and 52 RBI, and closer Craig Kimbrel, who currently has 31 saves and 2.04 ERA.
The edge that Gee has going into the final months is age. Gee is 25 years old, which has afforded him more baseball experience than Freeman, 22, and Kimbrel, 23.
If Gee can maintain his consistency in his final eight or nine starts, he could end up with 15 wins and an ERA in the low threes for a surging playoff contending team. This would make him the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award.
Since this former member of "Generation K" took an over-decade-long hiatus from Queens, his performance has been solid upon his return in 2011, pitching to a 3.58 ERA and a WHIP of 1.21, even after Monday night's four-run debacle.
After GM Sandy Alderson got rid of K-Rod and the nuclear vesting option that accompanied him to the Brewers, Izzy has been the Mets' primary closer and has gone 5-for-5 in save opportunities. If the Mets are going to win the close games down the stretch, they're going to need Izzy to forget games like Monday night and perform like the Izzy of old.
If these predictions come to fruition over the last two months of the season, the Mets will be looking at October baseball. As much as it pains me to remember, on September 12, 2007, the Mets held a seven-game lead on the second-place Phillies, and we all know how that ended. It's going to take a lot, but the Mets still have a chance.