A little more than a month ago, I laid out what the Mets would need to do to win the division. They were around .500 at the time - and from the 44-44 mark, I said the Mets would have to go 46-28 the rest of the way to reach 90 wins and win the National League East.
Since that time, the Mets are 25-13. Not bad. Another stretch like that and they'll do better than the goal I set for them. (I'm off on this being a midway posting by a game - at the mid-point, they were just ahead of what I predicted, at 24-13, on pace for 48-26, or a 92-70 season.) Can they repeat this type of stretch? The answer is yes.
The Mets have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way - they're heavy on the NL East. They play a series against Houston this weekend, one against Milwaukee the beginning of September, then a 4-game series against Chicago in the last week of the season. By then, both teams could be in a situation where they're taking it easy heading into the playoffs. (Or everything could be on the line.)
The Mets and Phillies have five games head-to-head, and the Phillies have to face the Dodgers in addition to Milwaukee and Chicago. For what it's worth, the Mets have the Cubs at home, while the Phillies have to go to Chicago - another advantage for the Mets. (The Mets go to Milwaukee, but I like that - they seem to hit really well there. Especially David Wright.)
The thing that is scary for Mets fans is that games in September against Washington and Florida (and for the sake of this conversation, I've eliminated the Marlins from contention, but they're still very much in this race) were what helped eliminate them from the playoffs a year ago. On the other hand, I like to look at it this way - the Mets have come all this way from last September, and I think now that they're at this point of the season, the bad taste from last year will get back in their mouths. If anything, last year will be positive motivation against lesser teams, rather than a psychological disadvantage.
For some reason, I'm not as worried about the bullpen situation as I probably should be. I think I'm relieved that Billy Wagner is out indefinitely, because I'd rather see him sit out than come back at less than 100%. He's not as reliable as we'd like this year at 100%, so less than that is bad news at the end of the game. Believe it or not, the Mets have a better chance with what they have going right now than with Wagner in there playing hurt. And in Tuesday night's game against Atlanta, you have to give the bullpen credit - they won the game for the Mets, keeping it at 3-2, Atlanta, until the offense blew it open in the eighth. It was encouraging.
Granted, it was Atlanta, and they don't hit very well. But guess what - that's the type of offense the Mets will be facing a lot down the stretch. 8 more games against Atlanta, 6 more against Washington. That's 14 of only 36 games left. It's crunch time - and the results so far have me thinking about a possible 11 more wins after the Mets get to 90.