New York Mets manager Buck Showalter expected this exact situation at some point or another this season.
Leaving Queens a week and a half ago for a 10-game-in-11-night gauntlet for California against the Dodgers, Padres, and Angels, the Mets held a 10.5-game lead in the National League East.
Such a difficult test has yielded decent enough results. Entering Sunday night’s finale against the Angels, the Mets went 4-5 — a perfectly respectable record given the circumstances.
It’s still given them the second-best start in franchise history through 60 games (39-21), but the rest of the division that had started so slowly this season has sprung to life.
The defending-champion Braves won 10-straight games. The Phillies, who fired Joe Girardi amidst a miserable start, reeled off nine-straight games.
Suddenly New York’s 10.5-game advantage has been nearly halved, sitting at 5.5 games prior to Sunday’s action.
That might provide some unease for Mets fans, but not for the team itself.
“The sky isn’t falling. It’s only raining,” Showalter said (h/t MLB.com). “I haven’t looked at the standings since we left New York. All that stuff, there’s nothing we can do about it, right?
“When you look at how good those [NL East] teams are, it’s kind of obvious at some point, they’re going to get going.”
Their schedule is also going to get easier.
According to Baseball Reference’s strength of schedule rankings, New York possessed the second-toughest schedule in Major League Baseball behind only the Phillies. The major difference is that New York is 23-14 against teams over .500 this season while Philadelphia is 15-20.
Meanwhile, the Braves’ 10-game win streak has come against the minnows of MLB — the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Athletics, and Pirates.
Upon their return home from California, the Mets will have the seventh-easiest remaining schedule in baseball, per Tankathon.
It won’t let up immediately, though it will soon. The NL Central’s second-place side, the Brewers, will make their way to Queens for a three-game set this week. Seven of their following nine games are then against the Miami Marlins