After dropping two games below .500 about a month ago, the New York Mets have pummeled their way back to the top of the NL Wild Card Race. Sitting one game above trailing Cardinals and stumbling Giants, the Mets have a gift of a schedule ahead, and an ideal situation to solidify a one game playoff. Optimistically assuming the Mets clinch a Wild Card seed, there are a few questions Manager Terry Collins has to think about before the game. Batters one through eight have varied drastically throughout the season. May it be the result of slumps, injuries, or just taking the day off, the Mets have yet to put together a routine lineup. Terry Collins has quite the mission at hand.
- Lead Off
Ever since the Mets picked up Jose Reyes, he has been a steady, productive lead off, hitter. Taking back his lead off homerun record from Curtis Granderson, Reyes has proven he is the man for the job, hitting the ball hard, taking walks, and creating plays at third base. He’s also the only Met that truly threatens to steal bases. In a game where every base runner counts, moving that lead off man to second can be key to taking an early lead.
- Second and Third
Asdrubal Cabrera has been a diamond in the rough for the Mets this year. Hitting homeruns and playing incredible shortstop, he has proven himself to be a perfect fit in the two-hole. Next up would be Yoenis Cespedes. Since his return from the Disabled List, that is where he has been most productive. Batting Cespedes third also increases the Mets chances of moving Reyes and Cabrera on the bases.
The best batter for the Mets in their most recent twenty and eight run has been Curtis Granderson. After starting the year as a near guaranteed out, Curtis has assured the skill Collins had been waiting for was worth it. Hitting the ball out one after the other as well as hitting with players in scoring position, Granderson has earned his new place in the lineup at cleanup.
- Five through Eight
First of all, batters one through four represent left field, right field, third base, and shortstop. This leaves the Mets needing to fill catcher, first, second, and the remaining outfield position. Who will catch? Travis D’Arnaud has proven nothing but that he is not very good at anything. With only fourteen RBI’s and an inability to throw runners out, Rene Rivera should be the one behind the plate. He has batted consistently eighth in the lineup and there would be no reason to not follow suit.
Who will play the remaining outfield position? Thankfully, Curtis Granderson is well versed in center and right field, giving the Mets the flexibility to choose between Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto. Terry Collins is in a pickle here. Bruce has been absolutely horrendous since he arrived in New York. At the same time, Conforto has not been very productive thus far either, spending some time in the minor leagues. This decision would have to be made based on how both players perform for the remainder of the season. If Collins had to make that decision today, it would be hard to depend on Bruce. Michael Conforto would be in right field.
The last two batters that have yet to be accounted for are first and second base. First base strongly depends on how much playing time Lucas Duda sees for the remainder of the season. As of now, James Loney has played just well enough to deserve that position assuming, Duda doesn’t prove himself healthy and productive. If he does, however, Collins would perhaps have an easier question to answer.
Who will play second base? The hottest new player discovered as a result of unfortunate injury is T.J. Rivera. The Bronx-born infielder has proven to be yet another unexpected gem for the Mets. Hoping that he continues to hit the ball out of the park, and play a tight second base, T.J. Rivera will earn that position. That being said there are a handful of players that need to be ready to pinch-hit. Kelly Johnson and Wilmer Flores have been absolute dynamite in the pinch-hit position. Depending on the success of whoever ends up being the starting pitcher, pinch hitters will be a vital part of the game, and certainly, should not be demoralized if they do not start the game. They will be very important.
If you literally look at who would line up to be pitching for the Wild Card Game, Noah Syndergaard would be your guy. It just so happens, however, that Game 163 is not like the previous 162. There are two men that Terry Collins has to consider for the game.
Choice number one would be Noah Syndergaard. He is the Mets healthiest and most impressive ace, and after all would be next in the rotation. Syndergaard has thrown gem after gem with the exception of a few games, including his most recent outing against the Atlanta Braves. Syndergaard’s 13-9 record proves he is suited for the job. Collins would have another option to consider, however. Bartolo Colon has proven to be made of rubber. The forty-three-year-old has been incredibly successful this year and has won six of his last nine games, pitching at least six innings in eight of those games.
Overall, the Mets have a challenging road ahead. Not based on the difficulty of their opponents for the rest of the season, but the decisions that need to be made that best suit them for a trip to the first round of the playoffs. The Wild Card Game will be exciting. They need to win that game before thinking about anything else.