The Mets finally break open the bubbly
Maybe it took a bit longer than anyone expected. But we should still remember that it is only the third week of September and the Mets are the first team to clinch a division in baseball this season. But it was just a matter of time with the large lead that they have.
Getting swept in a three-game set in Pittsburgh was reminiscent of 1986. Twenty years ago, the Mets were poised to win their first divisional title since 1973 when they headed to Veteran's Stadium. The Phillies won all three games and the Mets headed home to face the Chicago Cubs. Dwight Gooden got the job done and the celebration started. Maybe it's something about the state of Pennsylvania.
Monday night at Shea Stadium was a special evening. The Mets reduced their magic number to zero with a 4-0 victory over the Florida Marlins. Steve Traschel pitched very well and deserves a playoff start. The crowd was ready to explode and did just that. Some were dressed as if it were a New Year's Eve celebration, complete with blue glitter top hats. A party atmosphere, no doubt. And the players did their part by polishing off an unprecedented 25 cases of champagne, although much of it was sprayed and not consumed the natural way.
So now the Mets have made their reservation for the big October dance. Their first opponent is still yet to be determined. They will finish with the best record in the National League and will face either the Wild Card entry or another division winner with the worst record. Baseball rules prohibit facing a Wild Card team from your own division, and the Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies are still contending. The current leaders for the final playoff spot are the San Diego Padres, who played in the most exciting game of the evening, including the one at Flushing.
They went into the game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers leading the West by a slim half game. The Dodgers came up in the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 9-5. Four consecutive home runs tied it in incredible fashion. The Padres took a 10-9 lead in the top of the tenth, only to see Nomar Garciaparra hit a walk-off two-run shot. The wild, wild west it certainly is.
There is a good chance that the Mets' Divisional Series opponent will be the second-place team in the West. Right now that is the Padres, who were leapfrogged by LA after the incredible defeat. That would set up another visit to Shea by ex-Mets Mike Piazza and Mike Cameron. Dramatic...but would it be playoff baseball without it?