The schedule watching has officially begun in the National League as teams on the cusp of a playoff spot continue to fight for one of the final two spots. Outside of the top two teams the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs the final three playoff positions are wide open.
One of those clubs on the outside looking in is the reigning National League East Champs the New York Mets. Entering play on Wednesday, the Mets success has come on the mound as they currently rank third in all of baseball in runs scored. This includes their relievers who have pitched to a 3.25 earned run average to go with their starters 3.50 mark.
That type of success typically translates to a ton of wins for clubs but it hasn’t been the case for the Mets this season. Much of the blame can be handed to their lineup as they currently rank 29th in runs scored (416), 30th in hits (884), 30th in batting average (.238) and ninth in strikeouts (933).
For the Mets the biggest key down the stretch for the entire team is to start hitting from the top to the bottom of the lineup to help score some runs for their offense. Outside of Yoenis Cespedes (59) and Neil Walker (51) no other player on the team has more than 33 runs batted in. If the club can find some offense they will be a title contender come playoff time in October.
Here are two other National League teams who are on the cusp of a playoff spot in 2016.
Colorado Rockies: Now this might be the biggest surprise for many as many experts predicted this club to finish dead last in the National League West this season. Now with just a little over a month of baseball left the Rockies have their self the sixth spot in the playoff picture with an overall record of 55-58. While it will be a tough climb down the stretch the Rockies offense, if it can stay healthy, is one of the tops in all of baseball built around guys like Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado.
The problem has come from the mound where the team has allowed 587 runs compared to scoring just 569 runs. The staggering fact is the Rockies currently ranked second in all of baseball in runs only trailing the Boston Red Sox. For this club the first key down the stretch if they want to play themselves into a wild card spot is for their starting rotation to turn it on.
That includes Jorge De La Rosa who many would consider the clubs ace leading into the season. That prediction hasn’t come true as the Rockies starter has pitched to a 5.24 earn run average while allowing a 1.57 WHIP. Some of that success has turned of late as he has allowed two or fewer runs in four of his last five games.
The second key for the Rockies down the stretch is avoiding any additional key injuries. The club has already lost NL Rookie Of The Year Candidate Trevor Story to a season ending thumb injury. Then this past week the team saw Gonzalez sustain an ankle injury that forced him to miss a game. If the Rockies want to make a serious run staying healthy will be key.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Currently the Pirates sit in third in the National League Central but that won’t slow them as they will continue to fight for one of the final two wild card positions. The bad news for them is the fact they have struggled of late going just 4-6 over their last ten games, the same identical record as the Miami Marlins who currently hold the last playoff position in the National League.
Overall the Pirates have been steady for most of the season but they could use a big stretch run from their former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. The five time All-Star is currently hitting a career low .242 on th e season while striking out 110 times.
Along with the batting average, the Pirates center fielder has an on base percentage of just .319 on the season. This is the first time since the 2011 Major League Baseball season that McCutchen has not held an average over the .400 mark. These struggles recently landed him on the bench last week against the Atlanta Braves.
Other keys to the Pirates success down the stretch will need to come from the teams starting rotation. Currently the Pirates starters rank 21st in all of Major League Baseball with a 4.66 earned run average. The only team below them in those rankings that hold a playoff spot is the Baltimore Orioles.