With a 47-40 record, the New York Mets haven’t been the best and most dominant division leaders in baseball, but it has been enough to pace the National League East with a 3.5-game advantage.
There are still a lot of games left on the calendar, but a couple of circumstances that happened recently are making the Mets look like heavy favorites to take the division rather easily.
They Are Getting Healthier
The Mets suffered an ugly injury crisis in May and June, and had, at one point, 17 players on the injured list.
However, they have been slowly but surely getting healthier in the last few weeks.
Joey Lucchesi didn’t suffer the same fate, unfortunately, but the Mets have been able to manage and navigate his long-term injury.
In fact, the injury crisis allowed the Mets to discover and develop unexpected contributors.
And Carlos Carrasco is finally making progress from his torn hamstring, throwing bullpens and aiming for late July or early August for a return.
Carlos Carrasco, in the flesh pic.twitter.com/dn8g48WPtg
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) July 10, 2021
Noah Syndergaard is an option for September 1.
Brandon Nimmo and McNeil are already back in the lineup and mashing, especially the former.
As the Mets get healthier, they will likely start to gain separation in the NL East standings, now that their fiercest competitor, the Atlanta Braves, just lost their best player to injury.
The Braves Just Lost Their Best Player
The weekend wasn’t particularly positive for the Atlanta Braves.
They are in third place, four games behind the Mets, when they were tabbed by many as strong contenders for the World Series title.
Their 44-45 record suggests otherwise, and now, Atlanta will have to play the rest of the season without its best player.
Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who was rocking a .990 OPS with 24 home runs in 2021, tore his ACL and will have to go under the knife.
"I love to play. That's what I want to do. I want to be able to play. I'm really sad and disappointed for the team because I know they need me. And I want to be there for them."
Ronald Acuña Jr. discusses the news of his torn right ACL and the next steps ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/WIEgyRj2FC
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) July 11, 2021
Acuña will miss the remainder of the season, but should be ready for 2022 spring training if he has no setbacks.
Without Acuña, the Braves just don’t have the ammo to fight the Mets for the division title.
The Philadelphia Phillies are awfully inconsistent and their bullpen is far from reliable, so while they could theoretically challenge the Mets, their roster also looks a bit lacking in comparison.
The Washington Nationals, who recently made a push and were as close as 3.5 games back, are now six games away.
Losing Kyle Schwarber to injury really hurt their chances, but he will be back eventually.
The Miami Marlins are currently in last place of the division and pose no threat to the 2021 Mets.
There is still roughly half of the season yet to be played, but Acuña’s injury could be the nail in the coffin for the Braves, and the Phils and Nats appear too inconsistent to keep up with the Mets if they are healthy.