September has come as expected. But what no one could have expected was who would be the division leader in the NL East at this juncture. Those Amazin’ Mets have built a 6 game lead strengthened by their young pitching staff. Up until this point in the season, Matt Harvey (still the ace in my book), Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz have kept the Amazins in every game, with a few exceptions. But, combined with grizzled veterans Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon, these upstarts have the Mets on the precipice of their first offseason in four years. Citi Field has become the place to be in NYC.
The Mets have had most of their staff, sans Colon and Niese, on an innings restriction this season partly due to the fact that none of these neophytes has pitched 200 innings in any of their time in the big leagues. More importantly, three of the four have had Tommy John surgery already, the most recent being Harvey. So it’s understandable that the organization does not wish to overextend their innings. But a pennant race can change things quickly. And the final month of the regular season won’t be the cakewalk some seem to think it will be. It almost never is. So the games will matter a great deal all the way to the last series of the season which, by the way, will be a three game series against the now-second place Washington Nationals.
Still, despite the difficult road ahead, it hasn’t precluded many Mets fans or the New York media from counting down the days to the MLB playoffs. Or from speculating what the rotation will look like when only three starters are necessary during the postseason. Harvey and deGrom are a lock. But that third slot will be critical and I believe that Steven Matz, with his two career major league starts up until this point, is the answer for this team to succeed in October.
If and when Matz takes the mound in the postseason, the opposing teams will have a very brief scouting report on him due to the simple fact that he hasn’t pitched much at all in the big show. But that could be his greatest advantage when it counts the most. Baseball’s postseason historically has been littered with youngsters called up to pitch in crucial games for their parent club. And the lack of scouting on this lefty will drive opposing hitters batty. Not to mention pitchers facing him, as Matz has shown he can be dangerous with a baseball bat in his hands.
The question about Syndergaard’s role has been broached as well. In my opinion, his 96-100 m.p.h. heat is best suited to help this team in the bullpen. His presence in the ‘pen would be a factor teams have to account for in the playoffs. The moves GM Sandy Alderson has made fortifying this bullpen may not be enough to get them deep in the postseason. But if current closer Jeurys Familia falters, it is a nice cushion to have regardless.