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Mets headed toward date with NL West champs

CINCINNATI -- The Mets are now National League East champions and, while the rest of the field is not yet set, they know in large part what lies ahead. The Mets likely will play the Dodgers, with the NL Central winner assured of the league's best record and a date with next month's Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser winner. Only an extraordinarily unlikely NL West collapse by the Dodgers would change things.

So the Mets will spend their final seven games lining up their pitching, resting regulars and waiting to see if they can corral home-field advantage. Their 10-2 division clincher over the Reds on Saturday moved them into a tie in the loss column with Los Angeles after the Dodgers lost later in Denver. The Mets, a half-game ahead of L.A., hold the tiebreaker, by virtue of their head-to-head record against the Dodgers this season.

Manager Terry Collins has already said that he would like to earn home-field advantage, if possible, but will not push his players above and beyond in an effort to achieve it. Sunday's game should feature a slew of backups, for example, and the Mets will spend ample time down the stretch resting David Wright -- who is playing through spinal stenosis -- and injured infielder Juan Uribe. History, on top of everything, shows that home-field advantage in the Division Series is not necessarily an advantage.

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"I'm just happy we've won the division," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We're all happy."

Regardless of whether it's in New York or Los Angeles, the best-of-five Division Series will begin Oct. 9, before shifting to the other city three days later. Jacob deGrom, the Mets' best pitcher for most of the summer, remains the most likely candidate to start Game 1, leading a rotation that should also consist of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.

And that, for the Mets, is the rub. With those four pitchers, the Mets feel they have a chance, even against what Collins playfully calls "those animals" out in Los Angeles.

"With the power pitching, the sky's the limit," outfielder Michael Cuddyer said. "We've got the makings of a team that could go pretty deep in the postseason, and that's ultimately what our goal is."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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