Citi Field has been a lot of fun lately, though there's plenty of season remaining
By Marty Noble
NEW YORK -- While the Nationals were doing nothing in L.A. on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Mets were doing something good in the Big Citi. As a result, this statement will stand regardless of the Thursday night results from the left coast: The Mets are ahead of the Nats. And because the growing constituency of the Mets is intoxicated by the team's first-place standing, this also can be said without fear of change: Mets fans are ahead of themselves.
Of course they are. It's more than expected; they're almost obligated to feel as they do, to sense that their guys are in the midst of something special, that the right arms of deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, et al, are long enough to reach October, that guys named Uribe, Cespedes, Johnson and Clippard are bona fide difference makers.
The club's recent announcement regarding postseason tickets and the team's rollicking 12-3 victory against the Rockies on Thursday only intensify the mania. The Mets did so much that was right. And when Juan Uribe was racing to beat a center-field throw to the plate on Wednesday, the ball bounced off the mound and assured his safety. Positive signs are everywhere almost every day.
The Mets' remaining schedule arguably is the least challenging in the game, replete with heavy doses of Marlins, Phillies, Red Sox and Reds. But we need look back merely 14 days to revisit what was then identified by some as the Mets' most disheartening defeat since the final game of 2007. The Padres and rain conspired and administered a grotesque 8-7 loss on the home team. San Diego, deficient and flaccid, won two of three in New York.
And look what has happened since then; the Mets have won 11 of 13.
"Momentum is tomorrow's pitcher," Earl Weaver said. And the Mets have at least three of tomorrow's pitchers, maybe four if Steven Matz comes back and performs comparably to what he showed in the first weeks of summer.
What's to say the Nationals are incapable of a similar about-face? Moreover, what's to say the Mets can maintain this current pace or something akin to it? And then there's the compelling issue of September. Dave Parker called it "pantyhose month -- No Nonsense." The Mets haven't made footprints in the gunlap month since 2008. This set of Mets never has been through the September wringer.
It can be a most challenging assignment even for teams with September stripes.
* * * * *
Because the Mets' young pitchers are the fulcrum in this endeavor, the temptation is to link these Mets to those of the eventful summer of '69 -- the moonwalk, Woodstock, Chappaquiddick, Charlie Manson and Gil's Mets. Pick one.
Again, just say no to the Kool-Aid. The youth of rotations is the only legit link. And what if these Mets trip over their innings limits?
The '69 crew had a superior up-the-middle defense with Jerry Grote, Buddy Harrelson and Tommie Agee. They had Cleon Jones, who batted .367 in August, and Donn Clendenon, who hit seven home runs in September playing part-time. The current Mets have little that compares favorably, and any comparison of the rotations will favor the '69 guys.
The current Mets are a high-functioning group of role players, fueled as those celebrated ancestors were by the "Why not us?" manifesto. Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d'Arnaud, Daniel Murphy and, when his back isn't restricting him, Lucas Duda are the regulars. Terry Collins fills in around them. He's done well in picking their spots; see Uribe on Wednesday night and Kelly Johnson in Thursday's matinee.
The Nationals' personnel sparkles more. The Mets have no player with skills approaching those of Bryce Harper. He is a mighty force who can turn a game singlehandedly.
None of this is to suggest the Mets aren't capable of pulling this off. They are in first place after 115 games; Gil's guys were 8 1/2 out through 115. The Miracle was yet to happen. Pitching often is the determining factor, and the Mets have the pitching and the standing they need.
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.