It is the first month of baseball, and the season is already in full swing. While the typical saying goes “April showers bring May flowers”, the Mets need to put a personal spin on it. The importance of winning early in the season is an annual topic of conversation. This season more than ever, it is extremely pertinent for the Mets to have a strong start out of the gate. They play against only their division rivals for the whole month of April. This of course can be a blessing to the Mets, or a curse against them if they drop a significant amount of games against their divisional opponents. While many expect the biggest competition in the division to be the Washington Nationals, opponents such as the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins could potentially cause problems to the Mets.
Just last season, the Mets record against the Atlanta Braves was a weak 9-10. Last season, the Braves were not a formidable team in any respect. In fact, the Braves only won a total of 68 games last season. So why did the Mets struggle so much? One reason is Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who hit .395 against the Mets last season. Along with this, the Mets simply did not play well enough to win games against the last place Braves. So far this season, the Mets have won two of three games against the Braves. The Braves are a better team this year, so they will be more competitive with the Mets. While the Mets do hold the upper hand on paper, they have play up to their potential to beat the Braves.
The other divisional foe that the Mets had a losing record to was the Washington Nationals. At 7-12, the Mets struggled with the Nationals for the whole season. Led by a strong rotation and electric bats, the Nationals are looking to repeat as division champions. The only team that is thought to stand in the way of the Nationals is the Mets. This will be a competitive and thrilling rivalry to watch all season, and the Mets will look to win early games against the Nationals to make the road to a division title more smoothly paved.
Last season the Mets went 12-7 against both the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies. Against both teams the Mets will look to have similar success, if not better. It is important for the Mets to win against those two teams because they are beatable. The Phillies are currently in rebuild mode and the Marlins are still a few solid pitchers away from becoming a force in the league. While the Mets struggled in offensively in their first go around with the Marlins staff, it is not hard to see them improving in their next series.
It is imperative for the Mets to have success early in the season. No matter when they are played on the calendar, division games are division games. They should be played with the same intensity as a September game, hard-nosed and with an edge on it. If the Mets falter right now, don’t be surprised if they have to fight hard to catch up with the Nationals for first place. But, if the Mets win a majority of games in this first month against the division, don’t be surprised if the Mets have the division lead or are within one or two games by the end of August.