Remember this? It's time to readjust the expectations, with four games remaining in the regular season.
Here's the story right now (record; standings; then games remaining):
Mets: 87-71 - 1.5 back of PHI in East, tied with MIL for WC (1 vs. CHC, 3 vs. FLA)
Phillies: 89-70 - first place in East (3 vs. WSH)
Brewers: 87-71 - tied with Mets for WC (1 vs. PIT, 3 vs. CHC)
When I called for the Mets to go 46-28 the rest of the way (they were 44-44 at the time) in July, I said 90 wins would win the division. (I'll save you the math - so far it's been 43-27 - not bad, but it might not be enough.) It looks like it will take 91...at least, in my mind, the Mets need to get to 91 wins right now to assure themselves of a playoff spot (or at the very least, a one-game playoff with the Brewers or Phillies).
Last night the Mets created a difficult situation for themselves. Instead of playing tonight with a chance to move into a tie with Philadelphia, the Mets need a win to stay a game back (instead of dropping to two back). Like last year, the Phillies close out the season against Washington, so the Mets can't rely on help - they have to win their four remaining games - and Florida won't make it easy. Milwaukee has Pittsburgh for one more tonight, but then they have to deal with the Cubs, who hopefully will play them as tough as they played the Mets.
I hate to make it sound like I'm writing an obituary with four games left, but I want to get this out there - the Mets have had a good season. It's been tremendously frustrating, and the past few days have been microcosmic of that season-long frustration (the Jason Marquis grand slam, the bullpen blowing the game to the Braves on Sunday, the 4-run lead the Mets gave back last night to lose in extra innings, leaving the bases loaded in the ninth, etc.), but overall the Mets are in a position right now that I didn't think they would be in early on.
This year doesn't qualify as a choke job. The Phillies have played very well, and the Mets have battled. Last September colors this September a little differently, but the Mets aren't good enough this year to be considered chokers. They have pretty much no bullpen, and they have themselves in a position where they still control their fate. All they have to do is win.
It starts tonight with Pedro Martinez*, in the type of big game we've been waiting four years to see him pitch in. Hopefully the 2005 version of Pedro* shows up one more time....and then a few more times in the post-season.
JOHAN: I know I called for Johan Santana to go deeper into games, and to throw more pitches. I remember it well. Both times. I keep thinking about it each time he now goes deep and deeper into games. The one thing, though, is that I didn't want him throwing career-high type numbers of pitches (125 the other night) to get through these games. Bottom line: I hope the Mets don't just have one great season from Johan Santana and then six with a damaged arm. I hope he's not pushing himself beyond his capabilities to get the Mets into the playoffs in 2008 - because if he is, that doesn't bode well for the coming years.