PHILADELPHIA — One month into the voyage, the Mets have won more dramatic, memorable games than in maybe their last five or six seasons combined.
There was the jaw-dropping rally with two outs in the ninth inning in St. Louis less than two weeks ago in which the Mets scored five times to overcome a two-run deficit to win. That was the biggest moment of the season until they returned home and used five pitchers to no-hit the Phillies. Both performances were possibly topped by Thursday’s seven-run outburst in the ninth inning to again punch the Phillies. The Mets overcame a six-run deficit in that ninth inning and won, a feat last accomplished by the franchise when John Olerud, Butch Huskey and Carlos Baerga were sitting in the middle of the lineup against the Montreal Expos (remember them?) on Sept. 13, 1997.
The scene in the visitor’s clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park after this latest miracle was pure jubilation. Choruses of laughter emanated from all corners. Francisco Lindor told Jeff McNeil he would buy him a car if McNeil wins the batting title this year. When I told Lindor I now had that on tape and would hold him to it, the shortstop piped up: “I didn’t say what kind of car.”
Lindor and Dominic Smith were asking the odds that Friday’s game would happen, given the ominous weather forecast. Informed those odds were probably only slightly greater than the Mets’ comeback chances in the ninth inning that night, both seemed resolved to the fact they would be playing Friday. Spoiler alert: the game was postponed.
The Mets after 28 games are trending in the direction of a special team. The moments are there to tell us that. You just wonder what is left that can top what has been witnessed in these last two weeks alone.
“This doesn’t happen every day,” Brandon Nimmo said. “No-hitters don’t happen every day. Five-run ninth innings don’t happen every day. Seven-run ninth innings don’t happen every day. Those guys are getting paid a lot of money to get us out and they are good at it. This is not a normal circumstance.
“We’re prepared and we’re going up there to battle, but this doesn’t happen every day, so it will surprise you a little bit. You have got to be ready and just go up there.”
It’s an opportunistic team for sure, when you consider the Mets are hardly bashing the ball. Smith and J.D. Davis, two players who were significant pieces of the team’s nucleus in recent seasons, have been reduced to smaller roles as they try to regain their respective swings. But there was Davis in the middle of this latest ninth-inning rally with a pinch-hit double that set up Nimmo’s game-tying single. Four nights earlier it was Smith with four hits against the Phillies that helped lead a victory.
Jacob deGrom’s name is barely mentioned, a testament to the fact the Mets are 19-9 and receiving quality starting pitching. If the Mets weren’t getting that production, there would be an almost daily vigil for the ace right-hander, as he returns from a stress reaction in his scapula.
Buck Showalter is enjoying every minute of it, even if the manager’s face doesn’t always show it. The consummate professional, more concerned with what might still happen than reactionary to what just occurred, Showalter remains stoic. The biggest smile we might have seen from him this season emerged when he asked about reporters having to rewrite their stories after the Mets’ comeback. He loved the idea of “What the Buck just happened?” and wanted to know if it was usable. It got used.
The Mets still have 134 games remaining, and maybe April/early-May doesn’t mean too much. But the extraordinary nature of the last two weeks tells you there could be something beyond a mirage at work here.
If nothing else, the Mets have become a team worth watching until the final out.