The New York Mets, written off just a month ago, are now in a playoff spot after a 7-6 ninth inning comeback win over the Washington Nationals on Friday.
The 2019 version of the New York Mets just doesn’t know when to quit.
Trailing their NL East rival Washington Nationals 6-3 going to the bottom of the ninth inning at Citi Field on Friday, Todd Frazier hit a tying three-run home run off Sean Doolittle that just curled around the foul pole in fair territory. Five batters later, after hits by Joe Panik and Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto sent a fly ball over the head of Adam Eaton in right field to drive in Juan Lagares with the winning run in a 7-6 Mets victory.
What a difference a month makes. At the All-Star break in July, the Mets were 10 games under .500 and 7.5 games behind the Nationals. Manager Mickey Callaway was feuding with General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen while pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler were on the trading block. Then, at the trading deadline, the Mets decided not to trade either starter and instead acquired All-Star Marcus Stroman in a deal from the Toronto Blue Jays. The fortunes of the club have changed ever since.
The Mets are now 20-6 since the break, the best record in the Major Leagues. They’ve won eight of nine games in August and 14 of their last 15. Friday’s win over Washington was their seventh in a row and tied them with the Milwaukee Brewers for the second NL Wild Card spot, just 1.5 games behind the Nationals for the top spot.
Syndergaard and Wheeler have rewarded the club’s faith in them. Syndergaard hasn’t given up a home run in his last five starts since mid-July and has a 1.78 ERA, holding opposing hitters to a 2.09 average. Wheeler, meanwhile, hasn’t surrendered a run over his last 15 innings. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has been even better, with a 3-0 record and 1.09 ERA in the second half. Since the All-Star break, the Mets starters have the lowest ERA in the league (2.87) and the lowest home run rate.
Add to that pitching the play of rookie slugger Pete Alonso, and the Mets have the makings of a formidable lineup that should continue to contend for the remainder of the season. Alonso homered for the fourth straight game on Friday against Washington, a 426-foot shot off Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg. He now has 38 on the season, just three off the franchise record and 12 more than any other rookie.
Now comes the hard part, proving this hot streak is no fluke. Seventeen of their next 23 games are against teams currently in a playoff spot, including five more games against the Nationals and six against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. But Callaway says that Friday’s game, with all the excitement and tension of October baseball, showed that his young players are ready.
“That was definitely a playoff-type atmosphere tonight, and the young guys stepped up and did a great job,” he said. “Our players are up for the challenge, no matter what it is.”
It’s fitting that the Mets are doing all this in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the club’s first World Series. In 1969, the Mets, led by a young Tom Seaver, trailed the Chicago Cubs by as many as 10 games in August before going 38-11 the rest of the way, winning the division after never finishing higher than ninth in franchise history. They went on to beat the Baltimore Orioles in the Fall Classic, deservedly earning the nickname the “Miracle Mets.”
Fifty years later and the “Miracle Mets,” now led by Syndergaard, deGrom and Alonso, are back. And after what they showed on Friday, they’re going to be here for awhile.