Perhaps the biggest reason the New York Mets are pulling away in the NL East is the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, who is gaining strong consideration for NL MVP.
Cespedes looks to continue his torrid pace and lead the Mets to a sixth straight win Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves, losers of 10 straight at home.
In search of a big bat at the July 31 trade deadline, New York (80-61) landed Cespedes in a deal with Detroit.
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He's delivering in the biggest way possible, batting .313 with 39 RBIs while his 15 homers are the most by any player in his first 38 games with the Mets.
New York is 27-11 with Cespedes in the lineup, and 7-2 in a nine-game span during which he's hit .405 with six homers and 14 RBIs.
Cespedes went 3 for 5 with a two-run homer and an RBI double in Friday's 5-1 win over Atlanta (56-86), adding to the hype of him becoming the first Met to be named NL MVP.
"It is not about me, it is about the team," Cespedes said through a translator. "I am one part of the team. To be producing, and seeing the team winning, and everybody chipping in for one purpose. That is to play in the playoffs and hopefully we can bring the big trophy to the city."
The Mets are on their way to getting that chance, opening a season-high 8 1/2-game lead over struggling Washington.
"We have 21 left," manager Terry Collins said. "We have to go out and play the games. We have to win games. I'll be happy when we have an 8 1/2-game lead with eight to play."
Collins will also be happy if Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.31 ERA) can get back on track. The rookie right-hander, who had his last turn in the rotation skipped, is 2-1 with a 5.53 ERA in his last five starts. However, he's averaging 9.43 strikeouts per nine innings, nearly identical to his 9.36 mark over his previous seven games, during which he went 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA.
His recent issues, however, are leading to speculation that he could be moved to the bullpen for the playoffs.
Syndergaard allowed four runs in four innings of a 6-4 loss at Atlanta on June 20.
He'll face a Braves team that has lost 22 of 25 overall and 10 straight at home for the first time since dropping the 1987 finale and the first nine the following season. It's also tied for their single-season record set in 1977.
''You get mad and upset when there is a lack of effort, lack of hustle and we don't have that,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ''We're going through some growing pains.''
Williams Perez (5-6, 5.42) has a chance to win consecutive starts for the first time since June 15 and 20.
The rookie right-hander followed those two victories by going 0-6 with an 8.85 ERA in eight starts before allowing two runs with seven strikeouts in seven innings of Monday's 7-2 win at Philadelphia.
"For once all my pitches were working, and I was locating," Perez said through an interpreter. "I felt really good out there."
Perez allowed four runs and solo homers to Curtis Granderson and Travis d'Arnaud in six innings opposite Syndergaard on June 20.