Baseball wonks like to preach about not making much of a series in April.
They say it’s early; they tell you the season is a marathon, not a sprint; they mention nothing is the same from one month to another.
They use the tired cliche about teams not peaking until the summer.
They are not wrong, but for a middling team like the Mets, an April series might as well be September. This team accomplished nothing since their World Series appearance in 2015 for anyone to poo-poo this weekend series against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
After coming off a humbling sweep by the Chicago Cubs to complete a 2-4 road trip, they needed to take the series against the Nationals to get themselves back on track. They accomplished that by taking a 4-0 victory on Sunday afternoon along with a 6-0 victory Friday night on Jacob deGrom’s career-high 15-strikeout performance.
If nothing else, the Mets stayed afloat in the standings while the Nationals, Atlanta Braves, and Miami Marlins are underachieving. This is why this weekend was important. The Mets need to create a distance from three NL East contending teams while they are figuring it out. You know the Braves and Nationals won’t be underachieving forever with their talent and pedigree. The Mets can’t say the same since they are a flawed team that would have a hard time recovering from a bad start.
This Mets team will have more games like the one we just saw at Chicago, so no one should discount wins like this weekend.
April counts for something. There is a reason games are played this month. It helps a team survive a funk later this year. It gives the team a belief that they can be better than they think. It builds something for a season, especially for a team like the Mets.
The Mets can be a playoff team if they win games on the day deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Taijuan Walker start for them. Those three have provided quality starts so far this month. They need to take advantage of it by putting those wins in the bank. They did that this weekend. They needed this weekend more than the Nationals since they put their best starters on the mound. Anything short of taking the series would be a disappointment, and it would raise questions if this team really has it in them to be good in the NL East.
This weekend does not change what the Mets do. They still have questions to answer. Their bullpen needs to keep being good. They need more depth out of their rotation. This lineup has to hit better, which you think will happen as the weather gets warmer.
Still, they don’t have to answer questions about what went wrong or when will they snap out of it. They don’t have to be frustrated. Baseball can be such a mental game. Players can ride the highs or let the lows get the best of them. Some can be even-keel, and some can not. It sure beats the alternative.
The Mets are 9-8 in this young season. This is where they should be.
The question is…Can they get to 93 wins? That’s what it will take to make the playoffs.
They are 7-4 in divisional play, which helps their chances. They are going to need to take series after series against teams in their own division for them to get a chance. This is another reason why this weekend was important.
With a day off on Monday, the Mets can breathe and relax and not think about what went wrong this entire weekend. They can head to the Boston Red Sox series with a chance for momentum, especially with deGrom starting Wednesday night.
A winning month appears to be in the making. The Phillies play like a middling team, and that’s a team the Mets should beat. To be five games above .500 to finish this week would be encouraging heading to May.
With a team that has many questions, the Mets will take every win they can; they are not the Dodgers that can get wins easily.
Yes, this weekend does not give them a playoff spot or the division. But it does offer relief.
Maybe now they can keep playing baseball and keep on winning along the way.
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