The calendar flips to September this week, and that means the pretenders have been separated from the World Series contenders. This week, the Mets have a real opportunity to put the rest of the league on notice when they welcome the Dodgers to Citi Field on Tuesday for a three-game series that is sure to have a playoff atmosphere and postseason implications.
Buck Showalter’s club will be tested by L.A. as the Mets try to hang on to their National League East lead. The Dodgers — the unanimous No. 1 team in our MLB Power Rankings poll for a third straight week — come to town with the best record in baseball at 83-38 and still have a chance to catch the 2001 Mariners’ MLB record of 116 wins.
It’s not hard to imagine these teams meeting again in the NL Championship Series. How do the Dodgers and Mets match up? Let’s compare the two rosters.
When the Dodgers added Freddie Freeman to replace Corey Seager in a lineup that already had Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Will Smith, they figured to still be a force offensively. Freeman has been an excellent fit after a slow start, leading MLB in hits (161) and doubles (42), and let’s not forget about Betts, whose 31 home runs are just one away from his career best when he won American League MVP in 2018 with the champion Red Sox.
Add the great production from Gavin Lux and Trayce Thompson, and you have the makings of an offensive juggernaut.
One of the most impressive early-season feats was the Mets’ ability to stay afloat after the injuries to Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker thrived in the aces’ absence. The return of Scherzer and deGrom means the Mets will have a full rotation to compete in October.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, have lost Walker Buehler to Tommy John surgery, and Clayton Kershaw’s health is still to be determined. That means L.A. is relying heavily on Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson.
Cue the trumpets for the Mets bullpen, which is headlined by All-Star closer Edwin Díaz. His ninth-inning entrance has become one of the best intros in the game, but what might get lost in the fanfare is just how dominant he’s been this year. The right-hander could break the MLB record for K/9 ratio, with his 17.4 mark just below the all-time mark of 17.7 by the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman in 2014.
The Dodgers’ situation hasn’t been as smooth in their first season without Kenley Jansen. Craig Kimbrel has returned to inconsistency after finding himself during his final seasons in Chicago.
In late-game situations, the Mets have the bullpen to trust.
The Dodgers are the superior team, and with what they can do offensively, few teams have the arsenal of pitchers to neutralize them. However, the Mets are awfully close and have the frontline pitching that could cause any team issues in October.
Give me seven games of this series in the postseason, please.
MLB Power Rankings
Rankings are determined by staff vote
Records and statistics are through August 28
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-38, Last week: 1): It doesn’t quite make sense for the best team in baseball to be under the radar, but that’s exactly what the Dodgers have been.
2. New York Mets (82-47, LW: 3): Pete Alonso has been the Mets’ most consistent run producer this season and is going to finish in the top two in RBIs in the NL. He’s currently tied for first with St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt at 105 RBIs.
3. Houston Astros (82-47, LW: 2): Framber Valdez isn’t talked about nearly as much Justin Verlander, but the young left-hander is already one of the American League’s best. Valdez has had a quality start (six innings or more with three or fewer earned runs) in his last 26 starts.
4. Atlanta Braves (79-50, LW: 4): The reigning World Series champs have started to play their best baseball at the right time. Not only have they reached the top of the NL wild-card standings, but they’re also within three games of the Mets for the NL East lead.
5. New York Yankees (78-50, LW: 6): They haven’t had a second half to remember, but after Aaron Boone’s explosive postgame rant, they have begun to stabilize. Of course, news of Aroldis Chapman getting a leg infection from a tattoo is exactly the news you get when things aren’t going your way.
6. St. Louis Cardinals (74-54, LW: 5): They didn’t make a splashy move at the trade deadline, but they might have made the best acquisition of them all. Jordan Montgomery, acquired from the Yankees, has been spectacular going 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts.
7. Philadelphia Phillies (72-56, LW: 7): Bryce Harper is back in the lineup and might be the final piece for interim manager Rob Thomson’s club, which has rebounded to put itself in position for an NL wild card.
8. Tampa Bay Rays (70-57, LW: 11): Usually, Randy Arozarena waits until October to put on a show, but he’s producing when the Rays need it most. The 2021 AL Rookie of the Year has had a strong August, slashing .307/.414/.580 with five homers and 22 RBIs.
9. Seattle Mariners (70-58, LW: 12): They essentially made Julio Rodriguez a Mariner for life after signing the 21-year-old superstar to a mega deal that could net him over $400 million. Seattle’s next priority — getting to the postseason.
10. Toronto Blue Jays (68-58, LW: 8): Vladamir Gurrereo Jr. didn’t have the MVP-caliber start like he did last season. But as the playoff races have heated up, so has Vlad. He has a .508 slugging percentage with six home runs over his last 30 games.
11. San Diego Padres (70-59, LW: 9): They may have won the Juan Soto sweepstakes, but things haven’t quite gone their way. Soto has battled a bad back, Fernando Tatís Jr. got popped for PEDs and Josh Hader had the closer’s role taken from him because of poor performance.
12. Cleveland Guardians (67-59, LW: 10): They are starting to pull away in the AL Central. Shane Bieber is back to elite form with a sparkling 1.62 ERA in five August starts.
13. Baltimore Orioles (67-60, LW: 15): September is only a few days away, and the Orioles are playing meaningful games with a real shot at winning the final AL wild card. They're the best story in baseball this year.
14. Milwaukee Brewers (67-59, LW: 13): They’re not looking like a team that has anything left after the Josh Hader trade. The NL Central title is likely the only path to make it to the postseason.
15. Minnesota Twins (65-61, LW: 14): Similarly to the Brewers, the Twins can’t seem to find their footing as the season enters its final month. Byron Buxton’s health has not improved, and Carlos Correa hasn’t been able to carry Minnesota’s lineup.
16. Boston Red Sox (62-66, LW: 17): Not many things have gone right for the Red Sox, but Michael Wacha’s return to dominance (2.53 ERA in 16 starts) has been a pleasant surprise.
17. Chicago White Sox (63-65, LW: 16): And the award for most inconsistent team in MLB this season goes to the White Sox, who’ve routinely taken two steps forward and then three steps back.
18. San Francisco Giants (61-65, LW: 18): Catcher Joey Bart was long thought to be the heir to Buster Posey. The 2018 first-round pick looked overmatched at the big-league level, leading him to be sent down several times, but he’s figured things out. Bart is slashing .295/.330/.484 with five homers over his last 30 games.
19. Arizona Diamondbacks (59-67, LW: 19): Who knows if Zac Gallen will be pitching in the desert when the D-backs are good again? But one thing is for sure — he’s a gamer. Gallen ranks 10th in MLB with a 2.66 ERA.
20. Texas Rangers (58-69, LW: 20): One of the year’s top breakout performers has been first baseman Nathaniel Lowe. The most consistent player in the Texas lineup is slashing .300/.349/.498 with 22 home runs.
21. Los Angeles Angels (55-73, LW: 23): Shohei Ohtani is the most talked about player in MLB and for good reason. The reigning AL MVP is having a career year on the mound while still being a terror at the plate. He’ll either finish as the MVP runner-up or be the first back-to-back winner in the AL since Miguel Cabrera in 2012 and ’13.
22. Chicago Cubs (55-73, LW: 21): The rotation has been strong in the second half, and a big part of that success has been Justin Steele, the second-year lefty who has a 3.18 ERA.
23. Miami Marlins (55-72, LW: 24): There’s one correct answer for NL Cy Young Award and it’s Sandy Alcántara. Miami’s ace has been the most dominant starter in the NL.
24. Colorado Rockies (55-74, LW: 22): Daniel Bard’s 27 saves is tied for seventh in MLB.
25. Kansas City Royals (52-77, LW: 25): Bobby Witt Jr. is wrapping up his first season in the big leagues and is already the Royals’ best player. The rookie infielder leads Kansas City in nearly every major offensive category, including runs (65), hits (115), triples (6), home runs (18, tied with Salvador Perez), RBIs (65) and stolen bases (26).
26. Cincinnati Reds (50-76, LW: 26): Outfielder Jake Fraley is getting opportunities to play, and he’s had a bit of a power surge. He has six homers and a .505 slugging percentage over his last 30 games.
27. Detroit Tigers (50-78, LW: 28): Eduardo Rodriguez was missed during his three-month absence. The left-hander has pitched well since rejoining the rotation, allowing just one earned run in two starts.
28. Oakland Athletics (48-81, LW: 29): A.J. Puk may never be the hard-throwing starter the A’s drafted him to be, but the southpaw has turned into a reliable arm out of the bullpen with a very respectable 2.53 ERA.
29. Pittsburgh Pirates (48-79, LW: 27): In a season of few good moments, right-hander Chase DeJong has been a positive coming out of the bullpen for manager Derek Shelton with a 1.93 ERA in eight August appearances.
30. Washington Nationals (43-85, LW: 30): Highly touted prospect Cade Cavalli finally made his MLB debut last Friday and got a quick introduction to the big leagues after yielding seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Reds. He’ll take his lumps, but the Nats have nothing to lose by giving him more starts.