The New York Mets know what it's like to enjoy a surge into contention, as the Arizona Diamondbacks are experiencing currently. On Monday night, the Mets' playoff hopes may rest on figuring out how to regain that feeling.
The Diamondbacks will look to continue their timely hot streak Monday night, when they visit the Mets in the opener of a four-game series pitting teams on the outside looking in at a National League wild-card berth.
Merrill Kelly (10-13, 4.69 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Diamondbacks against defending NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom (8-8, 2.76 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.
Both teams absorbed defeats Sunday. The Diamondbacks gave up the tying run in the eighth inning in Cincinnati, then watched the Reds finish off a walk-off 4-3 win.
The Mets squandered an early three-run lead in falling to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, 10-7.
The Diamondbacks had a five-game winning streak snapped, and was just their second defeat in the last 13 games. They have made up 3 1/2 games on the Chicago Cubs in the race for the second wild card since Aug. 24. Arizona enters Monday 1 1/2 games back of the Cubs.
The Diamondbacks remained optimistic Sunday even after missing a chance to gain more ground on the Cubs, who lost the final three games of a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
"We'll be fine," Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed told reporters. "We're playing well. We're not worried about one loss. We're rolling."
That's a familiar feeling for the Mets, who at one point were tied for 13th place in the NL before going on a 15-1 tear to move within a half-game of the wild-card spots.
But a 7-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Aug. 10 cost the Mets an opportunity to climb into a playoff position, and it also started an 11-14 skid. New York has fallen to fifth in the race for the second wild card, four games behind the Cubs and staring up at the Diamondbacks, Phillies and Brewers. The latter two teams are each two games back of Chicago.
Mets manager Mickey Callaway struck an upbeat tone late Sunday afternoon but acknowledged the urgency of the series against the Diamondbacks.
"We're still going to be the same amount of games back," Callaway said. "We're about to play a very good team that we can make up a ton of ground on with four games, and we've just got to keep plugging along. We've got to win games. You can't lose two in a row."
Kelly earned the win in his most recent start on Sept. 3, when he allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings as the Diamondbacks beat the San Diego Padres 2-1.
DeGrom took a no-decision on Sept. 3, when he gave up four runs over seven innings as the Mets fell to the Nationals 11-10.
Kelly earned the win in his lone start against the Mets on June 2, when he allowed one run and struck out a career-high 10 over 7 2/3 innings as the Diamondbacks cruised to a 7-1 victory.
DeGrom is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in three starts against Arizona.
--Field Level Media
Mets host D-backs as both try to stay in wild-card race