New York Mets manager Buck Showalter said Sunday night that stranger things have happened than his team winning the National League East despite being down two games and not owning the tiebreaker with three to play.
Did those stranger things begin happening Monday night?
The Mets will take thefield still mathematically alive in the NL East race Tuesday afternoon, when they are slated to host the Washington Nationals in the first game of a doubleheader.
The twin bill was necessitated by rainout on Monday, when the game was postponed right around the time of the scheduled first pitch.
A few hours later, the Miami Marlins blanked Atlanta 4-0 to keep the Braves -- who swept the Mets in a three-game series that ended Sunday -- from clinching the division, earning the second bye in the NL playoffs and relegating New York to a best-of-three, wild-card series beginning later this week.
The Braves (100-60) are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mets (98-61) and have the tiebreaker via their 10-9 win in the season series. New York can only win the division if it sweeps the last-place Nationals (55-104) and Atlanta loses its final two games to fourth-place Miami (68-92).
Such a parlay seems like the very definition of a long shot -- but Showalter was maintaining his optimism when he held his daily press conference Monday afternoon.
"We're hoping (the Braves) lose three and we win three," Showalter said. "I ain't giving in."
Nor will the Nationals, who have set a Washington-era franchise record for losses but are playing out the string with four players aged 27 or younger seeing regular playing time as well as 30-year-old rookie Joey Meneses, who has 13 homers in his first 211 at-bats.
"We don't want to be in the position that we're in -- we really don't, we want to be headed to the playoffs," said Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who skippered Washington's 2019 World Series-winning squad. "But what I like is our guys are young, they're getting (the) experience of still playing some pretty meaningful games and they're getting to learn."
A quartet of right-handers are likely to start Tuesday. The Mets' Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) and the Nationals' Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11) were lined up to start Monday.
The other expected Tuesday starting pitchers are New York's Taijuan Walker (12-5, 3.59 ERA) and Washington's Paolo Espino (0-8, 4.30).
Carrasco took a loss in his most recent outing, when he allowed four runs over three innings in the Mets' 6-4 defeat to the Marlins on Sept. 27. He is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in seven career games (six starts) against the Nationals, including a 2-1 mark with a 1.80 ERA in four starts this year.
Abbott dropped his most recent start on Sept. 26 after surrendering five runs (four earned) in five innings as the Nationals fell 8-0 to the Braves.
Abbott is 0-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four career games (one start) against the Mets, with all but one of those outings coming this season.
Walker didn't factor into the decision last Wednesday, when he gave up three runs over five innings in the Mets' 5-4, 10-inning win over the Marlins.
Walker is 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA in five career starts against the Nationals. He fired seven shutout innings in Washington on May 12 during New York's 4-1 win.
Espino took the defeat Sept. 27 after allowing four runs over five innings in the Nationals' 8-2 loss to the Braves. That left him winless through 113 innings this year, leaving him in danger of breaking the major league single-season mark for innings pitched without a victory. Terry Felton set the record of 117 1/3 innings in 1982 while going 0-13 for the Minnesota Twins.
Espino is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in eight career games (three starts) against the Mets. He has opposed New York three times this year, all in relief, while pitching to a 1.42 ERA and no decisions in 6 1/3 innings.
--Field Level Media