The Mets’ “magic number” is currently 15, going into this three-game set with the Braves. What that means is, any combination of 15 Mets’ victories and the second-place team’s (currently the Phillies) defeats, eliminates the second-place team and makes the Mets NL East Champions.
For example, if the Mets win 8 more games between now and the end of the season, and the Phillies lose 7, the Mets finish in first.
In the recent “series preview” vs. the Braves, I stated that I’d be happy with one win in the Braves series, and one win in the Phillies series. Let me explain why.
With the magic number 15, and 20 games to play, time is running out quickly for the Phillies. If the Mets win just one against Atlanta, and just one this weekend vs. the Phils, the magic number goes down to at least 13. I’m banking on the idea that the Phillies lose at least one of their four games against the Rockies, so that knocks it down to 12, with 14 to play.
Of the Mets’ final 14 games, 13 are against the last-place Marlins and the may-as-well-be-in-last place Nationals (the other game is a makeup vs. the Cardinals). I’m fairly certain the Mets will win at least 7 of those 13, and that knocks the magic number down to 5.
Meantime, the Phillies will have 13 games left: 3 vs. the Cardinals, 7 vs. the Nationals, and 3 against the Braves. While it’s certainly possible that they’ll finish 9-4, I simply don’t see it happening. They would have to win both series against the Cards (in St. Louis) and Braves, and take 5 of the 7 from the Nats (of course, there are other combinations, but I’m throwing that out there as an example, to offer perspective). Again, anything’s possible, but with the Phillies throwing the likes of Adam Eaton, J.D. Durbin, and a fast-fading Jamie Moyer to the mound, that kind of dominance seems like a pipe dream — particularly when their bullpen ERA is around five.
Although the Phillies looked like an unstoppable juggernaut in their four-game sweep of the Mets at the end of August, they haven’t approached that kind of performance since. They’ve gone 4-5 since then, with the same squad. It’s as if they got “up” for that series with the Mets, and the rest has been a letdown. Are they a dangerous team in a very short series? Absolutely, particularly in Citizens Bank Park. Over a stretch of two weeks though, and away from home, the Phillies tend to revert to the mean — an above-average club, but not quite first-place finishers. And 7 of those last 13 games are on the road.
The way the numbers look right now, the Phillies do still have a chance — but they’ll need to get red-hot right now, and they’ll need the Mets to stop their current roll.
Personally, I’m still nervous. However, if the Mets can win both of these next two series, against the Braves and Phillies, I’ll be feeling a whole lot better.