The New York Mets remained hot over the weekend despite the uptick in competition as they took two of three from the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
So much for chalking up their ridiculous second-half hot streak to an easy schedule.
The Nationals have been one of the best teams in baseball since a rough two-month start to the season. By May 23, they were 19-31. They went 42-22 before their series with the Mets.
Winning the series against the Nationals — which featured a pair of exhilarating comeback wins — moved the Mets ever so closer to a playoff spot as they entered Monday night just one game back of the second NL Wild Card spot.
Hard to believe this was a team that was 11 games under .500 after the first game back from the All-Star break.
Everything has come together for the Mets, whether it’s been stellar starting pitching, an improved bullpen (outside of Edwin Diaz), and key contributions from all corners of the lineup.
Before Sunday’s 7-4 loss to Washington, the Mets had won 15 of their last 16 games — their best stretch of play since 1990.
But now, Mickey Callaway and Brodie Van Wagenen’s men are at a crossroad as they head to Atlanta to face the division-leading Braves in a vital three-game series.
Atlanta holds an eight-game lead over the third-place Mets in the National League East, but New York has hung tough despite the gulf in class throughout most of this season.
In 10 previous matchups, the Mets are 4-6 against the Braves this season, suggesting that this new-look, red-hot ball club could give the leaders a run for their money.
And we’re not just talking about this series.
Since Jul. 12, the Mets have jumped over seven teams in the National League standings and have gained 6.5 games on the Braves.
With a total of nine meetings remaining between the two teams from Tuesday until the end of the regular season, the Mets will have ample chances to chip away at the Braves’ comfortable advantage.
Should they continue to take two out of three against their other opponents as they did against Washington, Atlanta could be feeling plenty of pressure.
That’s a best-case scenario, though.
If the Mets are handled easily by the Braves, they’ll be provided with the hard reality check that it’s going to take more than a hot streak to make it to the postseason.
Consistent baseball bolsters playoff hopes and the Mets need to keep it in Atlanta.
Let’s take a look at this huge August series starting Tuesday:
Zack Wheeler (9-6, 4.20 ERA, 149 K’s) vs. Max Fried (13-4, 4.11 ERA, 122 K’s)
Steven Matz (7-7, 4.49 ERA, 104 K’s) vs. Dallas Keuchel (3-5, 4.83 ERA, 46 K’s)
Marcus Stroman (6-11, 3.20 ERA, 111 K’s) vs. Julio Teheran (7-7, 3.35 ERA, 126 K’s)
Last 11 games: .389 BA, .522 OBP, .833 SLG, 4 HR, 8 XBH, 8 RBI
2019 season: .334/.403/.533, 15 HR, 31 2B, 54 RBI
Last 23 games: .397/.452/.699, 5 HR, 13 RBI
2019 season: .307/.372/.521, 14 HR, 38 RBI
Last 29 games: .345/.388/.522, 3HR, 12 XBH
2019 season: .279/.317/.438, 12 HR, 48 RBI
Last 20 games: .371/.489/.586, 4 HR, 18 RBI
2019 season: .309/.402/.567, 29 HR, 95 RBI
Last 20 games: .379/.426/.678, 4 HR, 15 XBH, 14 RBI
2019 season: .300/.356/.508, 18 HR, 56 XBH, 65 RBI
Ronald Acuna Jr.
Last 22 games: .347/.421/.705, 10 HR, 25 RBI
2019 season: .298/.378/.538, 33 HR, 80 RBI