A Giant Weekend

The rollercoaster ride returns to Flushing, and we can only wonder what turn it will take this weekend against the San Francisco Giants.

After a week of scoreboard watching and a return to disappointing play, the once-first-place Mets find themselves again on par with the Washington Nationals. This time, though, it’s in a tie for second place, rather than dwelling in the NL East basement.

The Washington Nationals? How the heck did that happen?

Yes, somehow, some way, both the Braves and the Marlins have sunk to the bottom of the division, while the Nats have risen near the top (sporting a 15-13 record that is identical to the Mets’). As a result, losing four out of their last five didn’t matter much to the Mets — they’re still “in the hunt”.

Lady Luck strikes again — and she could be hanging around for a few more days.

The Giants currently sit atop the the NL West, buoyed by stellar pitching and surprisingly strong hitting. Everyone knew that San Francisco would have among the best arms in the league, but no one would have guessed they’d have 5 players in the lineup hitting over .300. So on the surface it would seem the Mets have a tough job ahead of them.

However, the pitching matchups may favor the home team — depending on your level of optimism and faith in Mike Pelfrey. If you believe Big Pelf’s last start was an aberration, then you might also have faith that the Mets have the advantage tonight as Pelfrey faces Jonathan Sanchez. The lefthanded Sanchez continues to be an enigma, with a 2-2 and averaging a shade less than 6 IP per start despite a sparkling 2.48 ERA.

Tonight’s game is the key to the series, because Saturday’s matchup is Johan Santana vs. Todd Wellemeyer and Sunday pits Tim Lincecum vs. Oliver Perez. You can’t assume that the aces are definitely going to carry their team to victory, but the odds favor a split after Friday.

Meanwhile, the 15-13 Nationals fight it out with the 13-15 Fish over the next three days, and the 17-11 Phillies take on the 12-16 Braves. So regardless of what happens this weekend, the Mets are pretty much guaranteed to either stand still or gain ground on someone in the NL East by virtue of intradivisional cannibalism.

But beyond the math of this weekend is the confidence factor, which seems to be a crucial component to this rollercoaster club. A series win over the mighty Giants puts the Mets in a good position — mentally and emotionally — as they go into a three-game set vs. the Nationals beginning Monday. In contrast, losing two (or more) against the Giants — with their top two starters on the hill — could send the Mets into an extended tailspin, depending on what the rising Nats do against the Marlins. Momentum and confidence can carry a club for a while, and what happens this weekend will set the tone for the next two weeks — in fact, for the entire month of May. Why? Because after this weekend, the Mets play only NL East clubs from May 10 to May 20, then play the Yankees, followed by the Phillies, before closing out the month with the Brewers.

Suddenly, this weekend takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?

Let’s hope Lady Luck is booked for an extended stay in Flushing.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mike May 7, 2010 at 9:47 am
    I think the Mets are going to play well at home all year. But I base that on the last home stand so perhaps I’m being overzealous. Thing is with a home field like Citi, the team should have an advantage because of team speed and fly ball pitchers suddenly not giving up as many homeruns. Team defense has been good also for the most part. I worry about this team on the road (though not David Wright who officially is back to his old self, killing the ball in small parks). Even if they don’t hit HRs at home the team is still better at home.

    I believe you are correct, Joe, that the month of May will set up the rest of their season. Just like April told fans whether the Mets would be competitive all year, May will tell fans if the Mets actually have a shot at the wild card. I honestly believe that “treading water” might be enough to show this team will compete for a wild card because the schedule is so tough and because it gets easier after that. I don’t think .500 is good enough, but a few games over that might just be enough to help propel this team to a decent year. We’ll see though.