Mets: N.L. Central powers forcing Amazins into fending off Nationals, or bust

By Michael Lecolant

The National League Central continued being an amazin’ thorn in the Mets side this weekend.

With Sunday’s afternoon’s 8-1 victory at Citi Field, the Pittsburgh Pirates completed their second series sweep over the Mets.

Aug 16, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Bobby Parnell (39) reacts as he walks back to the dugout after being relived against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at Citi Field. The Pirates defeated the Mets 8-1. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

They were initially swept in Pittsburgh back in May, getting outscored by an alarming 21-4 margin.  That was pre-trade deadline.  This time around, the visiting Pirates outscored the Mets by a more easily digestible 16-6 spread, with 2 games pushed into extra innings.

Overall, the Pirates outscored the Mets this season by a gross 37-10 margin in 6 meetings, or, by an average score of 6.16 runs per game versus 1.66 run per game for the Mets.

The Mets now sport a 9-20 record against the National League Central, punctuated by their combined 0-13 mark against the Pirates and Chicago Cubs, whom respectively hold firm leads in the Wild Card standings, thus making these Mets losses particularly costly.

Rounding out the Central, New York split 6 games with the Milwaukee Brewers, and went 3-4 against the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cincinnati Reds are the only team they’ve enjoyed any real success against, sweeping them at Citi Field back in late June.  The Mets have one final 4-game series in Cincinnati scheduled for late September.

That aside, the damage has already been done.

Last season, the Mets went 16-18 against the N.L. Central.  Both Pittsburgh and Chicago bested the Mets, but with a far less damaging 9-5 combined record.

Most would rather argue a better showing against the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants would have paved the Mets’ way towards a more rewarding 2014 season.  As it were, the Mets combined 5-21 record against the Nats, and eventual World Series champions ultimately cost them a chance at finishing .500 (or better) for the first time in 6 years, much less leaving them well short of a Wild Card.

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Regardless, by this time last season the Mets were 11.5 games out of first place.

That’s clearly not the case this season.  The Mets have turned the National League East on its ear with a 4.5 game lead over the Nationals.  But the Cubs and Pirates have made it perfectly clear the Mets better fend off the stumbling Nationals, or else.  To that end, the Mets and Nats face off 6 more times, to include a season ending showdown at Citi Field.

For now, we wait in a manner of speaking, by playing out the schedule and hoping the Mets continue playing meaningful games.  That starts Tuesday when they embark on a 9-game road trip against the Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, and Philadelphia Phillies.

The Mets own a disappointing 21-34 road record, but on a more promising note they’re 5-5 since the all-star break.

There’s the rub.

If the Mets can manage to play .500 on the road from this moment forward, then resume their fine play at Citi Field, they’ll surely set themselves up for very, very meaningful games in September – late September that is.

We’ll find out the true cost of their poor play against the Cubs and Pirates, if any, then.