In a season where they’re on pace for 103 wins, the Mets have shaken off a number of doubts about their sustainability, seemingly getting stronger as they go. They are going to get a vital test of that strength against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the best team in baseball by a reasonably wide margin.
The sizable impact the matchup could have on the standings within the National League East adds some spice to the series between top contenders.
After their day without work on Monday, the Mets, tied with Houston for the second-best record within the league at 82-47, will host the Dodgers for a three-game series at Citi Field. The Dodgers, who were a serious league-best 88-38 through Sunday, are heading in the right direction for his or her fourth season of 100 or more wins within the last six. Considering that they had outscored their opponents by 285 runs — a greater differential than that they had while winning 106 games last season — there may be an argument that they’ve been even higher than their record suggests.
“They’ve had an excellent season to date in what they’ve been capable of do,” said Max Scherzer, the Mets’ co-ace who pitched for Los Angeles last yr after a midseason trade from the Nationals. “You play this game to face one of the best. Obviously, they’ve been top-of-the-line teams in all of baseball, so for them to return into town, you wish to beat them. So it’s an excellent opportunity for us, an excellent challenge for us to go on the market and face them.”
Scherzer, who had 11 strikeouts in a 1-0 loss to Colorado on Sunday, is not going to pitch against his former teammates this week. The Mets will as an alternative roll with Taijuan Walker in Game 1, Jacob deGrom in Game 2 and Chris Bassitt in Game 3 — all three of whom were 2021 all-stars.
Walker and Bassitt took losses in Los Angeles during a four-game series in June, which the teams split. In that series, Walker allowed two earned runs over five and two-thirds innings on June 2. Bassitt allowed 4 runs (three earned) over six innings the next night.
The Dodgers are expected to counter with Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson and Dustin May, but Clayton Kershaw’s return from a back injury could shake things up. Kershaw, a three-time winner of the Cy Young Award, is predicted to rejoin Los Angeles in some unspecified time in the future this week.
“I’ve felt pretty good for some time now,” Kershaw told reporters after two simulated games. “Sometimes you possibly can’t determine once you get to pitch. They let you know. I’m just attempting to hearken to them as best I can, not get too impatient.”
Anderson notched a win against the Mets on June 3 when he held them scoreless over six innings of labor.
The Mets could walk away feeling strong from what is basically a postseason preview, but when things were to go sideways, their division lead may very well be in trouble.
With an 18-10 record to date in August, the Mets are still heading in the right direction for the second-best record in franchise history. But that has not resulted in much cushion within the N.L. East, where Atlanta is just three games behind. The Braves, who’ve won seven of their last 10 games, start a three-game series against the lowly Rockies on Tuesday, getting a likelihood to beat them up while the Mets duke it out with Los Angeles.
The Mets may very well be one bad series away from a tie for first place, while the Dodgers, who lead the San Diego Padres by 19.5 games within the N.L. West, could coast for the rest of the season and still easily win their division.
Regardless, Manager Buck Showalter believes the challenge of a series against the Dodgers can be good for his club.
“They’re top-of-the-line teams in baseball,” he said. “It’s a very good series for the fans. We don’t stay up for it necessarily. What you stay up for is the competition of facing a very good team.”