The Mets, not the Nationals, are headed to the World Series. New York just stormed through the Chicago Cubs, capping off a sweep of the National League Championship Series with an 8-3 win last night.
Entering the season, the Nationals were the betting man’s favorite with 6-1 odds to win the Fall Classic. Most expected the Mets to be improved, but finish in the middle of the pack with 30-1 odds of being crowned champions in early November. It would be nice to be holding one of those Vegas tickets now as New York has flipped the tables and stand as the current favorites to win the World Series while they wait for the Royals and Blue Jays to fight it out.
The Mets won 11 of the 19 games against the Nationals this season beginning with a victory in D.C. on opening day and continuing with devastating series sweeps in early August and September. Led by Max Scherzer’s no-hitter, the Nats managed to take two of three from the Mets to wrap up the season, finishing seven games back after holding as much as a 4 1/2-game lead in July.
And you may ask yourself in a very David Byrne kind of way, how did we get here?
3. Bullpen: The Nationals relievers actually finished with a better collective ERA - 3.46 to 3.48 - than the Mets throughout the regular season. But when it mattered most in the critical series in New York from July 31-Aug. 2 and in Washington from Sept. 7-9, the Nats bullpen fell apart. The everlasting moment, and maybe the low point of the season for the Nationals, came on Sept. 8. The Nationals entered play that night still in striking distance at five games back. Then they watched a commanding 7-1 lead evaporate as right-handers Blake Treinen and Drew Storen and lefty Felipe Rivero combined to walk six men in the seventh inning. The Nats lost all three games in the series after holding a lead heading into the sixth.
2. Starting pitching: The Nats and Mets possessed two of the best rotations in baseball, but New York’s starting five ended up outclassing Washington’s. The Nationals figure to deal with this issue for several years as the Mets are loaded with talented young starters like 23-year-old Noah Syndergaard, 24-year-old Steven Matz, 26-year-old Matt Harvey and 27-year-old Jacob deGrom. The Mets rotation weathered the storm for most of the season until offensive reinforcements showed up with the trade deadline acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes and the return of David Wright.
1. Trade deadline: Mets general manager Sandy Alderson furiously attempted to trigger a charge to the postseason by trading for veteran infielders Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson along with steady right-hander Tyler Clippard and Cespedes at the deadline. Sure Cespedes wasn’t Alderson’s first choice, but he eventually landed the slugger nonetheless. Cespedes smacked 17 homers and drove in 44 runs in 57 games for the Mets as they catapulted into first place upon his arrival. During the Mets’ three-game sweep at Nationals Park in September, Cespedes batted .429 (6-for-14) with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs.
The bright side for the Nats is that it doesn’t appear like the Mets will re-sign soon-to-be free agents Cespedes, Clippard and NLCS Most Valuable Player Daniel Murphy. But then again, the Nationals will most likely be without right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, as well as shortstop Ian Desmond and center fielder Denard Span.