The New York Mets will soon be confronting the behemoth of the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are set to arrive in Queens on Tuesday for the first and only time this season, playing a three-game series to close out the month of August and kick off the stretch run.
Despite the Mets success this year, the Atlanta Braves are within striking distance of them for the division title, so they cannot afford to ease up as the postseason draws nearer. The good news for the Mets is that once they get past the Dodgers, they have the easiest September schedule among all MLB clubs. But before they get to the easy part of their schedule, the team needs to take care of business against the best team in baseball.
The last time the Mets played the Dodgers was in early June, and the series could be bifurcated into two different parts: the first two games of the June series showcased the Dodgers’ dominance, whereas the final two games of the series displayed the resilience of the Mets and their ability to come back with a counterpunch.
This time, the series will not be a draw—one team will come out in front over the course of the three-game series. So how can the Mets ensure that they win their series against the Dodgers?
1) The Mets bullpen, particularly Edwin Diaz, must be lights out
The Dodgers lineup is deep and dangerous; the Mets need to be prepared for a less-than-desirable outcome—that their starting pitcher may not go as deep in the game. Edwin Diaz, in particular, is most likely going to be needed to lock down the late innings. Diaz has been fantastic this year, securing 28 saves for the Mets and pitching like the closer the Mets thought they were getting in the trade with the Seattle Mariners. He’s going to need to pitch like an ace against a Dodgers team that is offensively potent and can rack up runs in a hurry.
2) The Mets must be aggressive against the Dodgers' starting pitchers
It is essential that the Mets must take advantage of the Dodgers’ current starting rotation woes. Walker Buehler is out indefinitely for the Dodgers, and Clayton Kershaw is not guaranteed to return to the team until after Los Angeles departs Queens. The three projected starting pitchers for the Dodgers (Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson, and Dustin May) are pitching brilliantly, but it is important to note that May returned from the IL only recently, so his sample size is small, Heaney has a career era above 4.5, and Anderson’s career ERA also hovers over 4 runs per game. The law of averages suggest that a regression for these pitchers is forthcoming at some point, and the Mets bats, which have been resilient all year, are more than capable of bringing about this regression.
3) The Mets need to give Jacob deGrom some run support
Since deGrom has returned from the IL, he has pitched brilliantly, yet the team is only 2-2. Simply put, that is unacceptable. For the Mets to have a successful series, they need to back up their ace with some run support. During deGrom’s time with the team, the Mets have often failed to provide him with adequate run support. Against the Dodgers, narrow, low-scoring affairs are unlikely, given both teams’ offensive capabilities. In his first four starts back from the IL, deGrom has accumulated 37 strikeouts and only allowed one walk, holding hitters to a .138 average. It goes without saying that the Mets need to support their brilliant starting pitching better.
This upcoming series with the Dodgers is going to be an exciting series, and a potential look at a NLCS matchup. The Mets could make a strong statement here with a series win, as they continue to hold off the Braves. Here’s hoping that the team delivers.