Watch out for the hard-charging Braves closing what had been a double-digit gap behind the Mets in the NL East.
The defending World Series champs have emerged from their championship hangover to open the season, winning 12 consecutive games through Monday to move within five games of the Mets in the division race entering Tuesday’s action for both teams.
Buck Showalter, whose team held a 10 ¹/₂ -game divisional lead on June 1 before departing for a 10-game western swing, certainly is not surprised the Braves have turned it around after a 23-27 start through 50 games.
“I know you might roll your eyes. I haven’t looked at the standings since we left [for the road trip], except for the plane coming back,” Showalter said before Tuesday’s series opener against the Brewers. “Maybe it’s on purpose. But things like that, whether the Braves or the Phillies or whoever, it’s a given to me and to us.
“I mean, you’re all gonna seek your level in a baseball season. Everybody knew they were too good to [not] get there.”
The Phillies also had won nine of 10 through Monday to nudge above .500 (31-30) following the firing of manager Joe Girardi earlier this month.
“Our curiosity will be satisfied and it will play out and your strengths will show up and your weaknesses will show up, and you’re hoping that not too many injuries make it go one way or the other,” Showalter said. “Nobody wants to hear about your problems. Everybody’s got ’em.”
The Mets won’t see the rising Braves again until July 11 nor the Phillies until Aug. 12. Showalter insisted the team is looking solely at the slate immediately ahead of it, beginning with a seven-game homestand against the Brewers and the Marlins.
“I don’t know what the players choose to do and look at. But we do maintain a lot of focus on what we do, and we can’t do anything about that. We have to stay focused,” Showalter said. “Again, we’re getting ready to play one of the best teams in the National League and maybe in baseball in Milwaukee.
“Good team, great pitching staff, it’s on to another challenge. You got to put yesterdays in the rearview mirror, and what somebody else is doing, to us it’s a given. If we said something to our guys about it, they’d go, ‘No you-know-what.’ You don’t want to be Captain Obvious to them. They don’t need to know that. Because they already know things like that. There’s no secrets.”
Despite not accompanying the Mets on their completed 5-5 road trip, rehabbing pitcher Max Scherzer said upon rejoining his teammates in New York that they’ve been “awesome” in becoming the first team in the National League to reach 40 wins this season despite injuries to him and to co-ace Jacob deGrom.
“The guys are going out there and playing well,” Scherzer said. “It’s been bittersweet. I hate watching them on TV. I’d rather be out there with them, but it is what it is. I got to listen to Keith Hernandez a little bit more.
“For me, this is my first time being away from the team. Having an injury and being away from the team in my whole career. I’ve had little injuries, little strains and you’re back out there. But you never leave the team. This is my first time where I’ve had a substantial injury midseason where I’ve had to rehab away from the team. So this is new to me. … So being back in New York and being around the team puts a smile on everybody’s face.”