A couple of weeks ago, much was made of Broadway’s return to action. In the early summer, post-pandemic atmosphere of gaiety, the comeback of the theatre was hailed as yet another sign of the world’s slow return to normalcy: the Great Bright Way is shining once again. The baseball season is looking pretty bright around here, too. To borrow from that theatrical parlance, the Mets look like the hit of the season, poised to do boffo box office. They certainly are more entertaining than the actors in the rest of their division and they are in a fine position to put some more distance between themselves and their competition. And like any good Broadway story, there was heightened drama just before intermission.
A month ago, mid-June, the Mets had the baseball pundits shaking their heads. With all their injuries bound to catch up with them, they would turn out to be a first half “nice story,” nothing more. They were about to embark on their “toughest stretch of the year.” Starting June 11 and up to the All-Star break, they would face a daunting slate of 33 games in 29 days. And it wasn’t like they’d be taking on the lightweights of the sport, either: the compressed schedule was mainly comprised of division rivals Washington, Philadelphia and Atlanta, plus very strong San Diego, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee and New York Yankees teams. They might get a bit of a respite at the end, taking on a weaker Pittsburgh squad just before the break, but by then, it might be too late: their season could already be in tatters. Uncooperative early-season weather – plus some early-season COVID foolishness from some opponents – was to blame for the schedule being so packed up. A shame, really, because they could have had themselves a nice season.
So, how’d they do?
As this is written, they’ve gone 16-14 in this tough stretch, basically playing even within the NL East and taking series from those other contenders, decisively. They beat up on Pittsburgh last night, thus putting themselves in a position where a split of yet another doubleheader today will clinch a winning record for the 33 games. They will head to the break as a first-place team, leading the NL East by four-and-a-half games. I think it’s safe to say, we would all have signed up for this back in March.
Actually, their current state, standings-wise, is reminiscent of another big year: 2006. It was right around the same time of year when that team embarked on another “tough stretch,” a West Coast swing through San Francisco, Los Angeles and Arizona, culminating in a road series back in Philadelphia (?) and then sending them home to face Baltimore, Cincinnati and Toronto. At the start of the stretch, they had a five-game lead. By the time Toronto left Shea Stadium on June 25, it had more than doubled. They won 16-of-20, including an eight-game win streak out west, and by the time they got to Philly, most of the experts were conceding them the Division title.
This could be that.
After the break, the Mets head out to Pittsburgh, whose record, as mentioned, is not stellar. They will face strong Cincy and Toronto teams at home thereafter – with four vs. Atlanta sandwiched in – but their home record is a stunning 27-12. If they continue to feast on home cooking, they will have another 42 games in the second half in which to do so. No one else in the Division has been up to challenging them so far: Washington got within two games during “The Stretch,” but has since fallen back to fourth place. No one else in the Division has shown the resilient consistency the Mets have. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun.
And isn’t that what a Broadway smash is supposed to be about?