Desperate to stop a free fall that has left them tied for the NL East lead, the Mets again attempt to regroup as they begin a season-ending three-game series against the Marlins at Shea Stadium on Friday.
Panic has set in for the Mets (87-72), who held what once appeared to be an insurmountable seven-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 12 with 17 games to play. But an inability to beat the second-place Phillies over the past month, a current four-game losing streak and a Philadelphia resurgence has left the teams tied atop the division with three games remaining.
“There’s two choices: Roll over and start making vacation plans for the offseason, or battle like hell and win this thing,” Mets third baseman David Wright said. “We still feel like this is our division.”
New York’s struggles continued with Thursday’s 3-0 defeat to St. Louis. The Mets were limited to three hits and suffered their 10th loss in the last 14 games.
“We’re tied now, so now we’ve got three games to get it done,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “That’s the way baseball goes and we kind of made our own bed here so we’ve got to fight through this.”
No team in major league history has failed to win a division title when holding a seven-game lead with 17 to play, but the Mets also now are in danger of failing to reach the postseason as they, the Phillies and the Colorado Rockies all trail the San Diego Padres by one game for the NL wild card.
Oliver Perez (15-9, 3.32 ERA) is charged with the task of righting the Mets. The left-hander is 3-0 in his last four starts despite allowing 14 runs in 24 2-3 innings, but did turn in a stellar effort against the Marlins on Saturday at Florida.
He yielded just two runs in eight innings, striking out eight and not walking a batter in New York’s 7-2 victory. Perez, enjoying the best season of his career, had walked six in his previous start against the Phillies on Sept. 16.
“That’s as good as it gets - an outstanding job of stepping up,” Randolph said after Saturday’s outing. “It just goes to show, when Ollie is throwing strikes and trusts his stuff, how good a pitcher he can be.”
Perez is 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts versus the Marlins this season.
Wright extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a double Thursday, and is 23-for-60 (.383) with two homers and nine RBIs during the run.
While the Marlins (69-90) did lose three of four to the Mets last week, they rebounded to sweep a three-game series from the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs that has forced that division race to go down to the final weekend. Florida won 6-4 victory Thursday afternoon, also completing a sweep of the season series against the Cubs.
“You can look in their dugout, and it’s just like panic mode,” said Florida’s Cody Ross, who drove in a run with a pinch-hit double. “They’re pacing up and down. We would be in the same boat if the situation were reversed.”
Byung-Hyun Kim (9-8, 6.11), who lost to Perez last Saturday after giving up five runs in five innings, gets another chance at him and the Mets. The right-hander has lost his last two starts, getting tagged for 13 runs over nine innings in those games.
Saturday’s loss was his only outing against the Mets this year, and he is 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA in four lifetime starts versus New York. Including relief appearances, Kim is 1-5 against the Mets.
Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera is 16-for-50 (.320) with five doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs against the Mets this season.