The Mets capped off a six-game homestand on a much higher note than it started.
Steven Matz pitched 7.1 innings of no-hit baseball, and Neil Walker and Wilmer Flores hit solo home runs to help the Mets to a 5-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.
“He was really good,” said Mets manager Terry Collins afterwards. “He was really focused and I was really excited to see it today.”
For the first time in well over a month, the Mets have won two games in a row. True story.
A feel-good extra innings win, followed by a dominant pitching performance mixed in with timely offense, has this team looking at their season in a different light than a week ago.
When the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks came into town and took the first three games of this homestand from the Mets, there were understandable concerns over if Collins had lost his players or if he was the still the right man for the job.
The offense looked anemic, the pitching looked inconsistent, and Collins – not exactly one who’s shy with his opinion – looked lost for words.
Collins, clearly frustrated with the growing rhetoric surrounding his team, along with their lack of effort on the field, went into rant-mode on his players and the media. Something had to be done, it was either now or never.
Michael Conforto, and his .220 average, was sent back down to the minor Leagues. Collins said Conforto was pressing, but probably it was as much a message to the rest of team as it was a youngster perhaps trying to do too much.
The Mets would drop the opener of their next three-game series to the Padres, a tough 8-6 defeat in which they attempted to battle out of the hole Logan Verrett pitched them into.
Collins ended up sending Verrett to join Conforto in the minors.
Despite the loss, there were signs of a better effort from the players. They didn’t look like a team ready to quit on their season, much like it appeared they were ready to against Arizona.
Before you know it, two games later, the Mets have won two games in a row.
Matz didn’t just follow up another strong start from Jacob deGrom with one of his own, he came within five outs of pitching the first Mets no-hitter since Johan Santana’s on June 1, 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
While Conforto and Verrett are down in the minors regrouping, the Mets added Jose Reyes off the disabled list and called up Gabriel Ynoa.
Reyes in the lineup and Ynoa in the bullpen have both contributed meaningfully to the Mets modest 2-game win streak.
The near-anemic offense, which looked lost during the Arizona series, now has some life in it since the return of Reyes to the top of the batting order.
Reyes is running around the bases, getting his uniform dirty, and most of all … putting the Mets in a position to score runs.
Neil Walker and his red hot bat should be able to continue feeding off of this type of energy. Jay Bruce, and his .290 batting average with runners in scoring position, should benefit as well.
The impact Reyes has on the Mets is an intangible which could prove to be vital to any chance this team has of chasing down one of the wild card spots.
The big picture for Collins and the Mets has gone from non-existent to very clear and getting healthier as they pursue a playoff spot.
“That’s baseball,” said Collins. “To be honest, the energy kicked up a little bit, we played a couple of good games … I heard a couple of comments on the bench when Jose scored that run late in the game when he stole second and went to third on the throw and scored on the wild pitch. I heard someone say we needed that, we needed that. That’s what he can do and that’s why he’s such a valuable guy.”
They’ll now go on the road for ten games, including three more against Arizona and three against one of the teams currently holding one of the wild cards, the Cardinals.
Yoesnis Cespedes will more than likely be rejoin the Mets lineup during their upcoming road trip, if his quad muscle holds up. A healthy Cespedes brings more firepower to an offense that is showing signs of life.
The beautiful thing about baseball is that within a 162-game season, there will be highs and lows. A week ago Collins had the look of a frustrated manager at the verge of submission, winning a couple of games at a critical point can turn those thoughts around in a hurry.
“A couple of guys are going to start getting healthy, we’re going to see Yoesnis this week and if we can keep pitching the way we’re pitching then it’s going to be fun these next six weeks.”
What was once down, now appears to be up again on the emotional roller coaster that is the Mets 2016 season.