Usually we do this post on Mondays, but everyone was outside playing yesterday, so we held it until today: The Mets remain, in a world in which a national tragedy hits later this morning and causes the season to end today, a playoff team. Though it would be complicated and probably screw up Bud Selig's fancy new playoff system. But let's back up.
Since we left you last Friday, the Mets went 3-1, with three breezy wins over the San Diego Padres and a tough loss yesterday to those blasted Phillies. Yesterday was a particularly frustrating defeat, considering the Mets scored four runs off Cole Hamels, a hefty amount that should make one feel proverbially comfortable. But the bull pen, that doggone bull pen, was the issue again, with Jon Rauch giving the Phillies a 5-4 lead in the seventh, and then Manny Acosta — so solid for the Mets over the last two years — blew up again. Ty Wigginton hit a three-run homer off Acosta in the ninth, raising Acosta's ERA to 11.86 on the season. In response, the Mets are cutting Acosta today. (Careers turn in baseball so, so fast.) It was also a frustrating game in an injury sense; Justin Turner sprained his ankle in the third inning, and he'll go to the DL, replaced by something named Omar Quintanilla. This led to the bizarre scene of David Wright briefly playing shortstop. (Wright went 0-for-4, dropping him to .373 on the season, in case you were still checking in on the .400 thing.)
The Phillies loss was a rough one, but it shouldn't detract from the lovely weekend, in which the Mets outscored the (admittedly lowly) Padres 17-1. Yep, the Mets gave up just one run over the weekend. Dillon Gee gave up one run in seven innings on Friday, R.A. Dickey shut them out for seven and one-third on Sunday and, most impressively, Johan Santana was brilliant on Saturday, throwing a complete game shutout and giving up just four hits and no walks while striking out seven. It was only Santana's second win on the year, but wins don't mean anything; Santana has been fantastic this year in a while that exceeds anything the Mets could have reasonably expected. Check out where Santana ranks among National League starters in various categories:
ERA: 2.75 (fourteenth)
xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching.): 3.27 (thirteenth, and actually third on the Mets behind Dickey and Gee)
K/9 IP: 9.15 (seventh)
WAR: 1.6 (tenth)
Remember, people were worried about whether Santana would be able to do anything this year, and here he is, the Mets' best starter and a guy who'd probably make the All-Star team at this point. Not worth $24 million this year and $25.5 million in 2013 ... but an unquestioned bright spot.
Another unquestioned bright spot: that pretend playoff spot. Right now, the Mets are in a three-way tie for the top playoff spot with the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. (They were actually ahead of them both before the loss yesterday, had we done this on Monday like we usually do.) Now, under the new playoff system in which two Wild Card teams have a play-in game, a three-way tie is essentially a disaster, considering how few days have been allotted for tiebreakers and the play-in game. Bud Selig is desperately cheering against any ties at all this year. So, depending on whether or not you like to see Bud Selig miserable, you can cheer for ties, or you can cheer against them. No matter what, though, if the season ended today, the Mets would have some sort of postseason business. Here's how it would go down, if it went down:
Tampa Bay Rays/Chicago White Sox (Wild Card coin-flip winner) versus Texas Rangers
Cleveland Indians versus Baltimore Orioles
New York Mets/Miami Marlins/St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card coin-flip winner) versus Los Angeles Dodgers
Cincinnati Reds versus Washington Nationals
Nothing but contenders for the Mets this week, though, and all at home: They've got two more with the Phillies before a four-game series with those St. Louis Cardinals, who bring in Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina and — oh yeah — Carlos Beltran, who might be the best hitter in the National League right now. That'll be fun. We'll see who's standing next week.