Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Pete Alonso's record home run Tuesday night was a happy, but brief, distraction in a crucial Mets homestand that started so well but is souring rapidly.
Nine games at Citi Field began with such promise as the Mets beat the Indians three straight, but they've lost four in a row since then. The Cubs' victory Tuesday pushed the Mets three games back in the race for the second National League Wild Card spot and Chicago can do more damage to the Mets' hopes in the two games remaining in their series in Flushing.
Which is where Noah Syndergaard comes in. Syndergaard has been dynamite lately, but his start Wednesday night against Kyle Hendricks comes fraught with pressure.
It's the big game we've always thought Syndergaard could handle ever since he dueled Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card game in 2016.
If a few down Mets seasons since then have clouded your memory, here's a refresher: Syndergaard threw seven scoreless -- and overpowering -- innings against the Giants that night, allowing just two hits while striking out 10 and walking three. He nearly matched one of the best postseason pitchers ever in a game the Mets eventually lost, 3-0.
If he pitches like that -- or the way he has lately -- he could certainly handle the Cubs on a night brimming with urgency. Syndergaard has thrown eight consecutive quality starts for the first time in his career, lowering his ERA by nearly a run, to 3.71, in the process. He has a 1.82 ERA over his last eight starts.
Who knew what this homestand could morph into once the Mets grabbed the first three games? Winning 6-of-9 would have been remarkable; 7-2 would have been a dream. Now the best the Mets can hope for is 5-4 -- good, not great -- and they have to win two straight against the club currently holding the second Wild Card spot to get there.
To put it mildly, the homestand hasn't been ideal since the Tribe left town. The Mets haven't hit like they did while climbing into contention. In fact, they are 4-for-30 with runners in scoring position, a .133 average that makes a timely hit seem like a hazy memory. They were 0-for-5 with RISP in Tuesday's 5-2 loss.
To break through, they'll have to rely on Syndrergaard and Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom, who starts the series finale Thursday.
They also need to rely on their home field advantage, something that wasn't much of a factor in 2017 and 2018, when the Mets were 37-44 at home each season.
This year, the Mets are 37-25 (.597) at Citi Field. They've hit 94 homers in 62 games at home. J.D. Davis especially has thrived in Queens -- he's blasted 11 of his 16 homers at home and has a 1.090 OPS there.
The Cubs, meanwhile, are dreadful on the road (26-39) and their Wednesday starter, Hendricks, has a 4.76 road ERA.
Whatever happens in the final two games, it won't be the end of the run for the Mets. They play 19 of their final 31 games (including these final two against the Cubs) at home. That's the most remaining home games in the big leagues.
Still, Wednesday night is big, for the Mets and Syndergaard. The Mets need to make what they can out of this homestand, regardless of what's happened the last four games.