Flushing, NY – Seven ball games between the Mets and Dodgers, three played at Citi Field the past few days and what has been established is these are the best two teams in the National League and maybe the best in baseball. The Mets in all probability will meet the Dodgers again next month taking four of the seven games and destined to meet again next month.
Then, if it all goes to plan, one team will advance to the World Series out of the NLCS, but anything can happen in the next and final five weeks of the season. Late Thursday afternoon, after the Mets 5-3 three game series win, they were a team not looking ahead .
They said, though, this was just a series during the season. And that probable clash of the two best teams in the NL, in October, will be the determining factor. October is not that far, even though at Citi Field on the first day of September, it certainly felt like a postseason atmosphere.
Ask over 100,00 fans that attended the three games, and a good many of the Dodgers faithful will say their team is the one to beat. They don’t have an argument there, because the Dodgers will clinch the NL West in a few weeks, at 90-40 still commanding the best record in baseball.
But the Mets managed to take two-of-three the past few days at Citi Field and Tuesday night, if not for a few mishaps, could have got the three-game sweep.
“Got to establish that we can play well against them,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said when asked about this three-game series. ”The key is how we matched their pitching and how our guys hit.”
Yes, this was a postseason series and as good as it gets at the end of August and on the first day of September. And if indeed they do this again in a best four-of-seven, the Mets could have the advantage with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, their two multi-Cy Young Award winners who will be difficult to beat.
There’s a prevailing question as to who is the better team? There is every reason to understand why the top two teams in the National League were the center of attention this week.
And a best-four-of seven will have suspense. Both teams will pitch their best, and runs could be at a premium. We saw some small ball when Francisco Lindor stole third base and later scored in a Mets two-run sixth. Starling Marte, 3-for-3, perhaps the Mets MVP, laced an RBI single in the seventh.
That’s 12 RBI for Marte in his last 15 games. And after Jacob deGrom threw 7.0 innings and allowed one run the night before, with Chris Bassitt earning his 12th win Thursday, the Dodgers are aware the Mets starting rotation will be formidable in October.
Showalter said the key was how his Mets team pitched these last three games. Bassitt was in that category of going above and beyond, continuing to dominate at Citi Field, his last nine starts at home pitching to a 2.10 ERA.
And there is no denial the Mets played well. Leading baseball in runs scored, the Dodgers scored 8-runs in three games.
“They’ve got good pitching, we’ve got good pitching,” said the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman. “It’s going to be like that if we do face them in the playoffs.”
But the Dodgers also have Clayton Kershaw, the multi Cy Young Award winner. He was dominant in his first stint off the injured list and retired 13-straight after issuing a walk in the first inning with a perfect 10-0 career mark on the mound against the Mets.
“Was a little rough obviously,” he said. “But I’m thankful to kind of bounce out of that through five at best,” he said. Kershaw for the 15th time allowed one hit or fewer and for the third time this season.
And there is that deciding factor for the Mets because of Edwin Diaz. He went above and beyond, though, an 8th inning suspense saw two long fly balls off an ineffective slider close to leaving the ballpark and possibly changing the outcome.
Diaz was used in that 8th inning role to get three of the Dodgers runs scoring threats in Freeman, Will Smith, and Max Muncy. He walked Freeman, hit Smith, and Muncy scored on a ball that went deep to the warning track in center off the bat of Justin Turner.
Diaz, for the fifth time in 13 appearances, entered in the 8th inning. He managed to strike out Gavin Lux. a mean 103- mile fastball which was recorded as the hardest thrown in his career.
Lux said Diaz is without a doubt the best closer in the game. And the Mets will certainly use him in that 9th inning closers role in those October playoff games that will count as the real thing.
“I was a little bit angry because I wasn’t commanding my slider the way I want to.” said Diaz, recipient of the 2018 Latino Sports AL Relief Pitcher MVP award. “They got a really good team. We showed them we have a really good team, too. That’s the team we might play in the playoffs.”
Of course you can argue this was not the Dodgers at full strength missing CY Young Award pitching candidates in Julio Urias, the 2021 Latino Sports NL MVP recipient, and the 16 wins of an injured Tony Gonsolin.
The Mets, though, played above and beyond on the first day of September and checked every box with pitching and timely hitting.
They closed the deal and took a season series from the Dodgers for the first time since 2015, which was also their NL Championship year and last appearance in the World Series.
Above and beyond were the Mets. October could see the same, but remember the Dodgers are still holding that record and distinction as the best team in baseball.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network. Like, Comment, Subscribe
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