Posted on September 9, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
Thursday was a productive day for the New York Mets, and they didn’t even stop on the field. After making headlines in the morning by signing former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow to a minor league contract, the Mets ended the day in sole possession of the second wild card spot in the National League after the St. Louis Cardinals suffered a 12-5 loss at the hands of the lowly Milwaukee Brewers.
New York moved into a tie with the Cardinals on Wednesday when they completed a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds for their 5th straight win. The move into the wild card spot is the culmination of a rather surprising hot streak over the past few weeks that has seen the Mets win 14 of their last 18 games. Before the start of that hot streak, the Mets were at the bottom of congested five-team race for the N.L.’s two wild card spots. However, that race has now morphed into a even tighter three-team competition for two spots alongside the Cardinals and the reeling San Francisco Giants.
Perhaps most amazing about New York’s recent string of victories is that they’ve managed to do so with the likes of Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz watching from the sidelines. New York has seen rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman become more than adequate fill-ins for the injured deGrom and Matz, helping to supplement a rotation that’s now led by Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon. With surprising rotation depth, a lockdown bullpen, and a favorable schedule for the rest of the season, the Mets may suddenly be favorites to land a wild card spot.
Of course, the Mets could not have surpassed St. Louis without the Cardinals letting them. St. Louis has also suffered plenty of injuries this year and done as well as can be expected to move pieces around and find replacements. However, St. Louis has not been able to take advantage of a light schedule the same way the Mets have, leaving manager Mike Matheny struggling to find answers at time.
“We’re just going to have to continue to figure out how to play good baseball every single night,” Matheny said after Thursday’s loss. “It doesn’t matter where we are. We have shaken up as many things as we could possibly shake up. We just have to go play good baseball. I don’t care where. With this amount of time left, that’s all there is to it.”
Meanwhile, the Giants continue to struggle against teams both good and bad. San Francisco has won just two series over the past month, and since the all-star break the Giants have seen their comfortable lead atop the NL West disintegrate into a slim wild card lead. San Francisco has a half game cushion over the Mets and just a one-game lead over the Cardinals, making a playoff spot far from secure.
With a little more than three weeks left in the regular season, there’s a lot that can happen and everything to play for among the Giants, Cardinals, and Mets. Thursday’s shakeup in the standings makes it clear that the Mets are moving in the right direction, the Cardinals are moving in the wrong direction, and the Giants are just trying to hang on. Of course, what happens from here on out is anybody’s guess.