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20 July, 2015

Brace Yourself

  Brace yourself, Mets fans. We've been here before. Many, many times.
   Where, exactly is "here"? It's that place entering a big series against the team we are battling for the division. It's that place where winning the first game would mean so much, breath some life into the team and provide hope for the fans that good times await on the other end of that series.
   The Mets begin a 3-game series in Washington tonight just 2 games back of the Nats for the lead in the NL East. They have lined up their rotation so that their big guns, Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard will take the mound AND their anemic offense won't have to see Max Scherzer.
If the Mets fans were to dare and dream about a sweep, they would be dreaming of a 1-game lead in the division when the series ends. Good times!
   But recent history suggests it won't go well tonight. The Mets have an uncanny way of sucking the life out of a big series from the jump, losing game 1 with frequency.

   July 2, 1999: The Mets are 3 back of the Braves as Atlanta comes to Shea. Yes, it's early July but the Mets have built a good team and they have a chance to send a message to their fans and the Braves that they mean business this year. Instead Atlanta gave the Mets the business, winning game one 16-0. They lost the next one too before taking the finale and saving a little face. The Mets hung in there and even overtook the Braves for part of the summer before going to Atlanta in late September for a big series.

September 21, 1999: The Mets entered that series 1 game back and promptly lost the opener when Chipper Jones homered in the bottom of the 8th Dennis Cook. 2-1 Atlanta. The Braves swept the series and the Mets were left to battle for the Wild Card.

July 20, 2000. The Mets are 5 back of the Braves when they go there for a 3-game set. Do some damage and it's a race! Or lose the opener 6-3, drop two of three and leave town 6 back.

September 18, 2000: Not dead yet! 3 back with a 3-game series in Atlanta. Here we go!
He we don't. Braves win 6-3, take two of three and keep the Mets at bay, once again forcing them to battle for the wild card.

September 28, 2001: Post 9/11 the Mets played well and created some buzz. They won 8 of 9, including the "Piazza Game" and two of three vs the Braves at Shea. They went from 7 back to 3 back as they began a 3-gamer in Atlanta. Hopes were high. Everyone was talking about what a great story it would be given the circumstances. But then Steve Trachsel gave up 3 homers and the Braves took the opener 5-3. For good measure Atlanta walked-off the next day when they scored 7 in the bottom of the 9th off Benitez and Franco, capped by a Brian Jordan grand slam. Thanks for coming, drive home safely.

September 15, 2007: It's the flip-side view of things. Mets lead the Phillies by 6.5 games. Take care of business and put the Fightins in your rearview mirror. Or.... lose the opener 3-2 in 10 when Mike Difelice and Aaron Heilman both misplay bunts, leading to a sac fly. Tack on Beltran whiffing with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th just for yucks. Philly swept the series and the Mets executed one of the worst collapses in history.

  So here we are. It's not September, but somehow, some way, the Mets have hung around this long and they begin a 3-game series in Washington just two games back. The aces are lined up to pitch. If, by chance, they were to sweep maybe the front office would reward them with a deal for a bat or two to help them in the race. The table is set. The fans are excited for tonight and the two nights after that.
What could possibly go wrong?