Sizing up Mets’ potential postseason opponents

September 22nd, 2022

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo's Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Now that the Mets have qualified for the playoffs, whom might they play?

The short answer is potentially anyone, because it’s still unclear if the Mets will win the National League East or fall behind the Braves and grab a Wild Card spot instead. Because of Major League Baseball’s new postseason rules, there’s significant incentive for the Mets to win the NL East, which would give them a bye straight through to the Division Series.

As the likely No. 2 seed behind the Dodgers, the Mets would then face the winner of the 3-6 Wild Card Series, which would pit the Cardinals against either the Phillies, Padres or Brewers.

Potential opponent No. 1: St. Louis 
Mets' record vs. STL: 5-2 

The Cardinals present a difficult matchup. They’re a different ballclub than the one the Mets last saw in mid-May, when they faced Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz and Dakota Hudson in a three-game series at Citi Field. The latter two pitchers are no longer in the rotation, replaced by trade acquisitions José Quintana and Jordan Montgomery -- potential kryptonite for a Mets team that has struggled against left-handers. Jack Flaherty is also back from injury, while lineup stalwarts Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have established themselves as MVP candidates.

Potential opponent No. 2: Philadelphia 
Mets' record vs. PHI: 14-5

The Mets have had no trouble handling their closest geographic NL rival this season, scoring 100 runs in 19 games against the Phillies -- their most versus any opponent. Of course, all bets are off in October, when teams start fresh. But the Mets have generally handled Aaron Nola well over the years, and they’re unbeaten this season against Zack Wheeler. As far as playoff matchups go, this is one of the friendliest the Mets could hope to receive.

Potential opponent No. 3: Milwaukee 
Mets' record vs. MIL: 4-2 

Recently, the Phillies have given the Brewers every opportunity to pass them in the Wild Card race, but Milwaukee has failed to take advantage, in part because of its struggles against the Mets. The Brewers have serious rotation issues behind top starters Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, and the Mets recently handled Burnes without much issue. It’s another matchup that would favor the Mets, even though few hitters would sign up to face Burnes in a must-win game.

Potential opponent No. 4: San Diego 
Mets' record vs. SD: 2-4

Remember when every big-market fan base was clamoring for their team to acquire Juan Soto? Since moving to the Padres, Soto has hit just .231/.394/.373 with four home runs in 39 games. That’s not to say the sport’s best young hitter is incapable of waking up when it matters most. But the Padres haven’t waltzed into the postseason behind Soto and Josh Hader (10.97 ERA since his move to California) the way that general manager A.J. Preller had hoped. It’s an extremely talented team down San Diego way, but certainly a beatable one.

Should the Mets win any of the above matchups, they will go on to face the winner of the Dodgers and their NLDS opponent -- potentially the Braves.

If, however, the Mets lose the NL East title, they’ll be forced into a best-of-three series against the worst Wild Card team -- the Padres, Phillies or Brewers. In addition to the downside of having to play an extra set, that would force the Mets to face the Dodgers in the first round rather than the Cardinals or a Wild Card team.

While it would certainly be better for business for the Mets to avoid Los Angeles as long as possible, there’s a fringe benefit to playing the Dodgers in a best-of-five NLDS rather than in a best-of-seven NL Championship Series, much as the Mets did in upsetting LA in 2015.