Mets lock up division title, riding offense down stretch

The New York Mets clinched the National League East on Saturday afternoon, ensuring their first postseason berth since 2006. Two postseason appearances in 10 years matches the most in a 10-year span in franchise history.

Let’s look back at the key components of the Mets’ season.

Weak offense gets better

The Mets’ early season was characterized by strong pitching and poor offense. Through May 31, the Mets ranked 14th in the NL in batting average and runs per game and 13th in OPS.

New York ended May in second place, a half-game out of first place, thanks in large part to the team's pitching, which ranked fourth in ERA (3.36) in the first two months of the season.

Things turned around offensively in the last two months. Since Aug. 1, the Mets have led the National League with 5.77 runs per game. The Cubs (5.06 runs per game) are the only other NL team to average more than five runs in that time.

The Mets are also first in OPS and third in batting average among NL teams since Aug. 1.

Much of the attention has been focused on midseason addition Yoenis Cespedes. But Daniel Murphy has an .892 OPS since Aug. 1, compared with .711 in the first two months. Curtis Granderson (from .720 OPS in the first two months to .876 in the past two) has also added more offensively.

Saturday’s win against the Red marked the 11th time they have scored at least 10 runs in a game this season. Eight of those games have come after they acquired Cespedes.

Pitching now a focal point

New York’s pitching lately hasn’t been as strong as in the first two months. From Aug. 1 on, the Mets rank sixth in ERA (3.82), nearly a half run worse than in the first two months.

There has been concern and controversy the past few weeks over the use of Matt Harvey, who is in his first season back after Tommy John surgery. Harvey pitched 6 2/3 innings Saturday, his longest outing since Aug. 11.

Circle this game

Perhaps the most meaningful game of the Mets’ season came July 31 against the Washington Nationals, a day after the Mets blew a ninth-inning lead to the San Diego Padres and two days after Wilmer Flores cried on the field when he thought he’d been traded (though he wasn’t).

The Mets beat the Nationals 2-1 in 12 innings on Flores’ walk-off homer, the first game of a three-game sweep that moved the Mets into a first-place tie. It was the start of a seven-game winning streak, at the end of which the Mets had a 2½ game lead in the NL East.