By Declan Finn
The New York Mets make the long journey cross-country, from New York to Oakland, this week to start a string of six straight games against the Athletics and Dodgers. The road trip out West could either put the Mets back in contention for a wild card berth in the National League, or knock them out of playoff contention altogether. It's starts in Oakland, so let's break down the quick, two-game interleague series.
New York Mets (59-67, 7.5 games back of WC)
at Oakland Athletics (73-51, .5 game back AL West)
Tuesday, 10:05 p.m.
Dillon Gee (4-5, 3.69) vs. Scott Kazmir (13-5, 2.78)
Wednesday, 3:35 p.m.
Zack Wheeler (8-8, 3.49) vs. Jeff Samardzija (5-9, 2.96)
Playoff Picture: If the Mets are gong to make a run at one of the two wild card spots, they need to put together a winning streak as soon as possible. It won't be easy, and it may very well be next to impossible, but the Mets could be just one great stretch away from making the end of the season mean something to their fans. With 36 games to play, the Mets need to not only make up those 7.5 games to reach the Giants, they would also have to jump the Padres, Reds, Marlins, Pirates and Braves to get there. So, yes, it's an almost insurmountable hill to climb. But anything is possible, so why not ride the possibility until the math says otherwise? The Mets can only worry about themselves right now, but for those who want to do some scoreboard watching early this week, the Giants are at the Cubs, the Padres are at the Dodgers, the Reds are at the Cardinals, the Marlins play two at home against the Rangers, and the Pirates and Braves play each other for three games.
Momentum: The Mets aren't doing themselves any favors in trying to make up ground in the playoff chase, going 4-6 over the last 10 games, and splitting a four-game series with the Cubs heading into this series in Oakland. They are 7-11 so far in August. The Athletics, once the hottest team in baseball, are now one of the coldest. Oakland has lost five straight games and seven of their last eight. The A's have gone from runaway leaders in the AL West, to trailing the Angels by a half-game in the standings. The Mets have either caught the A's at the best possible time, or the worst.
Who's Hot: Mets: As has been the Mets' problem for the past several seasons, nobody on offense even deserves mention in this spot, so we focus on pitching. Wheeler has won five straight decisions and has allowed two or less runs in eight of his last nine starts. The one start he didn't, Wheeler allowed just three runs. Over that span, his ERA has dropped from 4.45 to 3.49. Vic Black has allowed one hit and no runs in his last four appearances. Athletics: Nate Freiman had three home runs and four RBI in his last two games. Josh Donaldson has two homers and four RBI in his last six games.
Who's Not: Mets: Gee has lost his last four decisions and hasn't won a game since July 9 against Atlanta. Jenrry Mejia allowed three runs in his last two outings, both against the Cubs, taking the loss Sunday. Curtis Granderson continues to stink up stadiums across the big leagues, going 3-for-28 this past week with an RBI. Daniel Murphy, who was an All-Star this season, went just 5-for-28 without an RBI this week. The highest batting average for a regular over the past week? David Wright, who batted .238. Athletics: Coco Crisp went 2-for-20 and Derek Norris was 2-for-19 this past week. Samardzijia allowed four runs, three earned, in a loss to the Royals in his last start. He's 3-2 in eight starts since being traded to Oakland. Kazmir, the former Mets super prospect, has had a great season, but is just 1-2 over his last three starts, allowing 12 runs in 19.2 total innings.
Looking Ahead: The Mets stay in California and play the Dodgers for three games starting Friday night.