The Amazin’ Return: How the Mets Trip to the Promised Land Defied the Odds

No one saw this coming. Way back in March, when everyone was making their “official” predictions for the 2015 MLB season, one team you didn’t hear in the mix was the Mets. Forget their own issues for just a minute. They didn’t have a shot because the Washington Nationals were the team to beat. Washington was coming off a 96-win season in manager Matt Williams’ first season, and by all accounts, they had only gotten better in the offseason. Yes, they lost Adam LaRoche to the White Sox, but many expected the likes of Bryce Harper to step up and those same people prayed that Ryan Zimmerman could remain reasonably healthy and  make the transition to first base. But that pitching staff, the only question surrounding them was “How dominant can these guys possibly be?” A rotation that already featured Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Fister just gained perhaps the best arm in the game in Max Scherzer. The Mets didn’t have a chance in the world to win that division, and with the strength of the NL Central and West divisions, they would be lucky to even make a Wild Card berth.

Fast forward to October, and the Mets are the only National League team remaining, as they prepare to square off against the Kansas City Royals tomorrow night in Game 1 of the World Series. How did this happen, you ask? It’s really a simple answer: They were in better shape than we gave them credit for in the spring. Couple that with a disappointing season by the Nationals that saw Williams fired at year’s end, and you have a 90-win Mets team that raised the NL Pennant.

On June 24th, the Mets lost their 7th straight game to drop their record to 36-37. It seemed safe to write them off at this point, as the Nationals were rolling thanks to Harper. The lineup was littered with question marks, and the team was without its captain and leader, David Wright, dealing with a back condition. The team managed to stabilize things and made it to the All-Star Break with a 47-42 mark. But down the stretch, the team really flexed its muscle, reeling off long winning streaks in August and September to distance themselves from the disappointing Nationals and win the division.

Despite this, no one gave them much thought going into postseason play. The Cardinals won 100 games, clearly the best team in the NL. The Dodgers have Kershaw and Greinke. The Pirates had Cole and McCutchen, and the Cubs were supposed to win because Back to the Future said so (but seriously, they got a Cy Young campaign from Jake Arrieta and the roster is filled with young talent with bright futures). What did the Mets have? Ok the rotation was good, but the middle relief corps had holes, and the lineup, well, other than Cespedes and Duda, really didn’t strike fear into anyone.

Enter Daniel Murphy. The Mets took down the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, and then proceeded to sweep the Cubs in the NLCS, and a large portion of that can be attributed to Murphy. He set a record by hitting a home run in 6 straight postseason games, and batted over .500 to win the NLCS MVP. But you cannot discredit the pitching staff either. Matt Harvey, Noah, Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom have looked masterful (deGrom was particularly impressive when he did not have his best stuff and still gave the Mets solid games his last 2 outings), and the bullpen has held it together when they were called on to bridge the gap from the starters to Jeurys Familia, the closer.

The other quesetion marks? Well the catcher position was not great this year, to be honest. But, Travis d’Arnaud has done masterfully in the postseason, both calling the games and delivering at the plate. Following the injury to Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores has stepped up in the postseason to play an adequate shortstop both at the dish and with the glove.

So, no matter which way you slice it, it has been a remarkable run to the Series for the Mets. But they know their task is not complete until they win 4 more games. The recipe is simple, get production throughout the lineup, get 7 innings from a starting pitcher, and let Familia close it out.  It won’t be easy, the Royals look better on paper (Matt Neverett will have an article on that later today), but the Mets don’t mind. As they showed this year, they’re not bothered by being counted out before anything really begins.