In a season in which they are on their way to 103 wins, the Mets have shed many doubts about their sustainability, seemingly getting stronger as they go. They’ll get a crucial test of that strength against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in baseball by a pretty wide margin.
The considerable impact the matchup could have on the NL East standings adds some flavor to the series between the top contenders.
After their day off Monday, the Mets, tied with Houston for the second-best record in the league at 82-47, will host the Dodgers for a three-game series at Citi Field. The Dodgers, who led the major leagues at 88-38 through Sunday, are on track for their fourth season of 100 or more wins in the last six. Considering they had outscored opponents by 285 runs, a better differential than they had in winning 106 games last season, there’s an argument that they’ve been even better than their record suggests.
“They’ve had a great season so far in what they’ve been able to do,” said Max Scherzer, a Mets co-ace who pitched for Los Angeles last year after a midseason trade from the Nationals. “You play this game to face the best. They’ve obviously been one of the best teams in all of baseball, so for them to come to town, you have to beat them. So it’s a great opportunity for us, a great challenge for us to go out there and face them.”
Scherzer, who had 11 strikeouts in a 1-0 loss to Colorado on Sunday, will not pitch against his former teammates this week. Instead, the Mets will roll with Taijuan Walker in Game 1, Jacob deGrom in Game 2 and Chris Bassitt in Game 3, all three of whom were stars of 2021.
Walker and Bassitt suffered losses in Los Angeles during a four-game series in June, which the teams split. In that series, Walker allowed two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings on June 2. Bassitt allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings the following night.
The Dodgers are expected to fight back with Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson and Dustin May, but the return of Clayton Kershaw from a back injury could turn things around. Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is expected to rejoin Los Angeles sometime this week.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good for a while now,” Kershaw told reporters after two simulated games. “Sometimes you can’t decide when you’re going to pitch. they tell you. I just try to listen to them as best I can, not get too impatient.”
Anderson pulled off a win against the Mets on June 3 when he held them scoreless for six innings of work.
The Mets could walk away feeling strong from what is essentially a postseason preview, but if things go awry, their division lead could be in trouble.
With an 18-10 record so far in August, the Mets are still on track for the second-best record in franchise history. But that hasn’t resulted in much of a cushion in the NL East, where Atlanta is just three games behind. The Braves, who have won seven of their last 10 games, begin a three-game series against the lowly Rockies on Tuesday, and have a chance to beat them as the Mets take on Los Angeles.
The Mets could be one losing series away from tying for first place, while the Dodgers, who lead the San Diego Padres by 19.5 games in the NL West, could go through the rest of the season and still win. its division easily.
Regardless, manager Buck Showalter believes the challenge of a series against the Dodgers will be good for his club.
“They are one of the best teams in baseball,” he said. “It’s a good series for the fans. We don’t necessarily expect it. What you expect is the competition of facing a really good team.”