Let’s stipulate up front that with 13 games remaining and a Wild Card berth seemingly in hand, Mets fans are most afraid of this and this. To be in a position to worry about collapses is better than the alternative, of course. Three Sundays ago the Mets had lost to the floundering Phillies, were stuck behind the mediocre Marlins, and looked for all the world like they’d need other plans for October. In the 18 games since, the Mets played .706 baseball, which is good. After getting outscored by 32 runs from May through August, they’re up 16 runs this month and show little sign of slowing down. That brings us to the Wild Card. We wouldn’t be Mets fans if we couldn’t find the cloud in every silver lining. When we consider the Coin Flip game, here are the scary thoughts that involuntarily occupy our minds. — Scott D. Simon (@scottdsimon)
Yeah, yeah, I know Bumgarner’s been kinda lousy lately. Just a few weeks ago, he looked like a Cy Young favorite, and now he’s barely even on the periphery of the discussion.
But did y’all watch the 2014 postseason? The man had inarguably the greatest postseason ever, capped by arguably the greatest relief appearance in the history of baseball. More than anyone else in baseball, it feels like he’s capable of walking onto the field on October 5th and giving the Mets virtually no shot of winning that game. It’s not the most rational fear, but I desperately do not want to see Bumgarner in the Wild Card Game. – Jarrett Seidler (@jaseidler)
Cardinals Devil Magic
Killing dreams is the true “Cardinal Way.” They live to destroy the hopes and dreams of other fanbases, particularly those who are in long championship droughts. Bring it back to 2006, when with one of the worst teams to ever make the playoffs (83 wins!), they knocked out the still-championship-deprived Padres and then, tragically, eliminated the best Mets team since 1986 and a far better club. (Thanks, Adam Wainwright.) To top it off, in the World Series they took down the Tigers, a Cinderella team that lost 119 games just three years prior to making its first playoff appearance since 1987.
In 2011, the Cardinals took down the dominant “Four Aces” Phillies squad and two more title-less teams in the Brewers and Rangers. They were 10 1/2 games back of a playoff spot in late August. It didn’t matter. Texas was just a strike away from a World Series victory. Twice. It didn’t matter. David Freese hit a playable fly ball to deep right field that should have been the final out. It didn’t matter.
There haven’t been any Cardinals championships since then, but the team has still killed plenty of dreams. Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, of all people, tying and winning 2012 NLDS Game 5 against the Nationals with one out to go. Coming back from behind in the 2013 NLDS to eliminate another Cinderella team, the Pirates. Somehow beating Clayton Kershaw to send the Dodgers home (again, twice).
This is what the Cardinals live to do. So if it’s Cardinals/Mets Wild Card game, I fully expect a late-game homer by Kolten Wong to win it. Yes, Wong only has five dingers all year. Repeat: It doesn’t matter. Cardinals devil magic perseveres. Enjoy Arby’s. — Andrew Mearns (@MearnsPSA)
The Mets’ Bullpen
Strong peripherals and a wonky BABIP-against might project a sunnier future, but they won’t clean the grime off of the Mets bullpen’s 4.09 second-half ERA, 21st in baseball over that stretch. Beginning with a hot stretch to end 2015, Mets fans got a taste of life without fear of the 7th inning, but now the fear is back and this time it comes with the highest of high-leverage situations lingering in the distance: a win-or-go-home Wild Card game. Mets starters can go deep, but if anyone else not name Reed or Familia steps on that rubber, all bets are off. Terry Collins’s history of … creative … bullpen decisions doesn’t offer much comfort, either. Whether the Mets are facing the Cards or the Giants, I have just one request: go 9, Noah, go 9. — Maggie Wiggin (@maggie162)
The Mets’ Infield Defense
This won’t exactly be breaking news to anyone who watched the Mets in last year’s World Series, but I still feel ill at ease with an extreme groundball closer on the mound in a one-run game. Nate Silver’s Secret Sauce is out of fashion (due to some overfitting and the presence of Mariano Rivera’s peak queering the data), but it is nice to have a defense that can turns balls in play into outs, especially when you are likely to be playing close games in October. Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker were defensive upgrades over Flores and Murphy, but neither are even average and only one is healthy. Plus, the team is running out James Loney, who’s not stretching for balls, and a thirty-something third baseman with diminished range. It isn’t hard to picture a slow-rolling grounder through the 5.5 hole upending the Mets when it hurts the most. At least it will be a familiar pain. — Jeffrey Paternostro (@jeffpaternostro)
Re-Living 2006 NLCS Game 7
Overall, 2006 was a great season for the Mets. They finally dethroned the Atlanta Braves as NL East champions and advanced to the NLCS. If the Mets advance to the Wild Card game this year, I am frightened that it will be eerily similar to NLCS Game 7 of 2006, the one game where most of my memories from that season exist. Particularly the dreaded 9th inning: Aaron Heilman gave up a two-run home run to Yadier Molina, then Adam Wainwright, a rookie at the time, struck out Carlos Beltran looking on a curveball to end the game.
A one-game playoff against the Cardinals would not be good for my psyche. Every Yadier Molina at-bat will haunt me, reminding me how close the Mets were in 2006. And every Adam Wainwright curveball will bring back the pain of the called third strike to end that game and the Mets’ season. The last thing I want is for the 2016 season to end the way the 2006 season did. — Seth Rubin (@sethrubin)
Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports