I'm finally starting to get excited.
Watching the Mets finish off their sweep of one of the best teams in the National League in their home stadium finally stirred something inside of me today. It took a come-from-behind win on Monday, an extra innings thriller on Tuesday and finally, an easy romp on Wednesday to complete a very successful 6-2 road trip. The Mets come home from Milwaukee with a three-game lead over the Phillies and a fan base that is slowly allowing itself to shrug off the devastation of last year's collapse.
The starting pitching looks exceptional at times, and it seems like every night there's a chance to see someone spin seven innings of shutout ball. The lineup is healthy and hitting the ball well. Even the much-maligned bullpen is holding its own, although Jerry Manuel is doing far too much mixing and matching for my tastes.
The New York Mets are a dangerous team, and for the first time this season I'm starting to believe that they are a playoff team.
The Mets still aren't the best team in the National League. Chicago is the class of the Senior Circuit and my pick to make it to the World Series. The Cubs' lineup is simply devastating, and if Carlos Zambrano is healthy, their starting pitching is no joke either. A three-man grouping of Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly is on par with Santana, Perez and Pelfrey. Don't even bother comparing bullpens - Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol are light-years beyond anything the Mets can throw at you.
The Brewers, despite playing the victims this week, competed in a three-game series without starting their best pitcher - CC Sabathia. The big lefty is the best pitcher in the National League right now and I would hate to see him three times in a seven-game series. The Cubs are in a different stratosphere, but the Mets and the Brewers are two evenly matched teams with similar flaws - specifically, an untrustworthy bullpen.
Arizona is doing everything it can to hold off the Dodgers in the NL West and they probably will. The Diamondbacks aren't a bad team - I happen to think they are better than their record indicates - and a rotation of Brandon Webb-Dan Haren-Randy Johnson can take care of anyone in a short series.
No matter. The Mets are a team to be reckoned with, and if they hold off the Phillies in the East they will be just as dangerous as anyone else when playoff time rolls around. Something tells me that this September won't bring the same heartache that the previous one did.