Despite having the softest schedule on paper over the final month of the season, the New York Mets will face one of their toughest challenges to date in a huge series at Citi Field this week.
Amidst a grueling division race with the Atlanta Braves, the Mets will finish August with a three-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers, widely considered the best team in baseball. It will be the second meeting with the Dodgers this season after the two teams split a four-game series in L.A. back in June.
There is no question that the primary short-term focus for the Mets is to outlast the Braves for the East division title and secure a first-round bye in the playoffs. Putting that aside, however, the upcoming series against Los Angeles will have a playoff atmosphere and serve as a litmus test for how far the team can go in October.
If the Mets are to win the World Series, they will likely need to go through the Dodgers and prove they can beat them in a short series.
While winning two of three this week won’t necessarily predicate success down the road, there are a few important things the Mets can learn from their home showdown with L.A.
For one, winning a short series against the Dodgers is tough. Of the 40 series they have played coming into this three-game set, the Dodgers have won 29 and tied 2 (one of which was the June four-game split).
But the more important takeaways for the Mets this time around will center around the state of their offense and one very intriguing pitching matchup.
Offensively, the Mets come into this series in a bit of a rut despite taking three of four from the Colorado Rockies over the weekend. Over their last six games, the Mets have averaged just under three runs per game, failing to score more than three in all but one. A big reason why has been a lack of timely hitting – they hit just .191 with runners in scoring position over those six games.
The penchant for hitting in the clutch, which has elevated the Mets all season long, will be crucial if they are to have any success against the Dodgers, now or in the postseason. Coming into the week, the Dodgers led the National League with a 2.84 team ERA and, as is the case up and down their roster, have tremendous pitching depth even with recent injuries to key starters such as Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Tony Gonsolin. With baserunners likely at a premium, the Mets will need to make the most of the opportunities presented to them.
From their end, the Mets have Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt lined up to pitch two of the three games. Both started in the June series in Los Angeles with respectable final lines, albeit in losses where each had little offensive support.
But the key matchup to watch will be on Wednesday when Jacob deGrom is scheduled to start against left-hander Tyler Anderson. This will be deGrom’s first start against the Dodgers since 2019, but he’s had plenty of experience against many of the Dodgers’ key hitters – notably, old division rivals Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner.
More importantly, this will be deGrom’s first crack at a lineup against which he will need to be at his best come October. When the Mets faced L.A. the first time around, they did not have deGrom or Max Scherzer available due to injuries. With much of the narrative around the Mets and their path to a championship heavily weighted on their two aces, this will be an opportunity for deGrom to make an early impression.
The Mets are full steam ahead towards vying for the division title with just 33 games left entering Tuesday. But for a few days ahead of Labor Day weekend, they will have all eyes of the baseball world on Queens for the pilot episode of a potential Hollywood-worthy fall series. It will be the perfect stage for the critics – and themselves – to see how big of a hit they can become.