After a late-season surge last year left them three games shy of a wild-card berth, making the expanded playoff field in the pandemic-truncated 2020 campaign seemed to be a reasonable base expectation for the New York Mets.
Better days were surely ahead for the Baltimore Orioles, who were fresh off the worst two-year stretch in franchise history, but even the most optimistic prognosticators probably didn't expect them to take advantage of the shortened season by qualifying for the larger tournament.
Yet with two-and-a-half weeks left in the season, the Orioles are the team that will take the field Wednesday night with a chance to climb into a playoff spot at the expense of a reeling Mets squad in danger of falling out of contention entirely.
The Orioles will look to complete a sweep of a brief interleague series when they visit the Mets in the finale of a two-game set. Jorge Lopez (1-0, 5.59 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Baltimore against New York's Rick Porcello (1-4, 5.54) in a battle of right-handers.
Struggling left-hander John Means earned his first win of the season Tuesday night, when he tossed six strong innings and the Orioles hit four homers in an 11-2 rout.
The win was the fourth straight and the sixth in eight games for the Orioles (20-21), who moved within a half-game of the New York Yankees for the eighth and final playoff spot in the American League. Baltimore has outscored the Yankees and Mets 28-7 over the last four games.
"These guys and the way they're swinging it, they're really putting up some runs," Means said Tuesday night. "We have a good team right now and chemistry is really kicking."
Absorbing a second straight difficult loss provided the Mets (19-24) another reminder they need to mount a finishing kick, and fast. New York routed the Philadelphia Phillies by a combined 19-2 in back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday before overcoming a six-run deficit yet eventually squandering a late lead in a 9-8, 10-inning loss on Monday.
The Mets are three games behind the Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants -- each of whom won on Tuesday night -- in the race for the NL's final two playoff spots.
"This was a tough loss tonight, but this team's too good not to make the playoffs," said Mets outfielder Jake Marisnick, who homered off Means in the second inning. "I think we know that, and we have got to play better than we did tonight and take care of business. There's not a lot of games left."
Lopez earned the win last Friday, when he allowed three unearned runs over five innings as Baltimore began its winning streak with a 6-3 win over the Yankees in the second game of a doubleheader.
Porcello didn't factor into the decision last Friday, when he gave up two runs over six innings in the Mets' 5-3 loss to the Phillies.
Lopez allowed one run over two innings of relief in his lone appearance against the Mets on May 24, 2018, when he was pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers. Porcello is 8-12 with a 4.77 ERA in 23 career starts against the Orioles.
--Field Level Media
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