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New York Mets April Schedule: Nationals, Dodgers and Phillies to Test Team

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COMMENTARY | For the New York Mets, the 2013 regular season is seen as a transition year. The team isn't expected to compete for a playoff spot, but manager Terry Collins has been steadfast in his opinion to the media that this team is good enough to win right now, and the Mets are not satisfied with rebuilding.

In order for New York to finish the first half of the season in playoff contention (like it did last season), the month of April is crucial. The Mets were fortunate to start the year and play well against two weaker teams in the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins, but their schedule is about to get a lot tougher, and it's all on their next homestand.

Washington Nationals @ New York Mets (4/19-4/21)

It's unfortunate that New York is in the National League East, as it has the tall task of playing the Nationals 18 times a season. Washington put together a 98-64 record in 2012, good enough to take the NL East crown, as well as owning the best record in baseball.

The Nationals are projected to be better this season, getting full years out of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, while adding Rafael Soriano to the bullpen. New York went 4-14 against Washington last year, including a 1-8 mark at home. If the Mets plan on competing this season, they'll have to perform much better at Citi Field against the Nationals.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ New York Mets (4/22-4/25)

The Dodgers' roster is full of star players that have lofty expectations to live up to -- it sounds like World Series or bust. If the Mets perform well and take a series from the Dodgers, especially if Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke both pitch within the three-game set, they will start to turn some heads. Their lineup is packed with a lot of power, so it will be an early test to see if the retooled bullpen can handle the pressure to either hold on to a late lead, or keep a deficit close to allow the offense to start a rally.

Los Angeles swept a three-game series from New York in its only trip to Flushing last season.

Philadelphia Phillies @ New York Mets (4/26-4/28)

It's always a big series when the Phillies and Mets meet up but since they're not expected to contend for a division title because of the Nationals and Atlanta Braves, there is a race for third place in the NL East. If New York plans to follow the lead of Terry Collins and fight for a playoff spot, it needs to win as many games within the division as possible and capitalize on its games against the Phillies and Marlins. More important, the Mets need to protect their home field, which is something they didn't do against any of these teams last season. The Mets won 10 of their 18 matchups against Philadelphia in 2012, but struggled to a 3-6 record at Citi Field.

Matt Musico provides his Mets opinion as Senior Editor of Rising Apple, while giving his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home

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