Take in all the factors of the game and Tuesday night at Citi Field, the Mets used them all. Pitching, defense, hitting, and that all combined again for the Mets fifth straight win. Yes it was a 5-0 win over the Marlins and there is no secret they are the worst team in the National League.
But the Mets are beating the teams they have to. The start of a test comes this weekend, three at Citi Field with the Nationals a team they have to bypass for a NL wild card spot.
And going 18-6 since the all-star break, 12 wins in their last 13, is pretty darn good. The second half winning percentage since the break is best in baseball. They were a season-low 11 games under .500 (40-51) coming out of the break.
Yes, three weeks ago there was no talk about a postseason run. This columnist will be the first to admit it was time to look at next year but if the pitching staff got it together, as they have accomplished, there were possibilities of getting back in contention.
And now the Mets are playing for something. They are relevant and playing meaningful baseball in August and that has not been seen in two years.
So as the Mets go for a four-game sweep Thursday afternoon against the Marlins, there are many factors to this turnaround. There has always been good chemistry in the clubhouse. There was always Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil developing into established big league ballplayers before our eyes.
Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario who had a night of rest turned it around. Rosario with his timely hits and ability to hit a home run. He has been playing clean defense at short. Conforto, always a good second half hitter, with 23 home runs and 61 RBI, sat down Tuesday night didn’t sit and mope and jumped around the dugout with Rosario and the other Mets when Wilson Ramos blasted a third inning three-run homer to right-center that extended the lead.
And the pitching made a vast turnaround. Zack Wheeler, once on the trading block, threw a scoreless eight innings and got the Mets eight shutout of the season, the sixth at home.
Wilson Ramos, the communicator, has caught four of the six shutouts at Citi Field. He has gone with the plan and made adjustments with the rotation, exception of not catching Noah Syndergaard and that could change soon.
Wheeler said, “We know how good we can be and how good we are.”
He got a lot of ground ball outs, 16 of 24 that required 100 pitches. Mets starters since the All-Star break lead the Major Leagues with a 2.61 ERA, and pitching like that with run support will get the wins.
Which leads to some other factors about the turnaround, one was Zack Wheeler. He survived the trade deadline and manager Mickey Callaway said, “It was a big jolt.” He has won all three starts since coming off the injured list on July 26, posting a 1.33 ERA.
Indeed, Wheeler and the pitching staff has been a big jolt to this resurgence that has put the Mets two games over .500 at 58-56, They are 2.0 games from the second wild card.
Oh, the other factor in all of this? Phil Regan, the 82-year old pitching coach, though they won’t say it outright, he is the difference. Sources in and out of the organization say that Regan has earned the respect and had this different philosophy.
Meaning, throw more sliders, change the approach, a philosophy that is evident with the results coming from Wheeler, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, and the bullpen. Even the newcomer, Marcus Stroman, has admired the approach and style of his new pitching coach.
It wasn’t working with Dave Eiland. It’s working with Phil Regan. And right now it’s working for the Mets as Pete Alonzo has picked it up again and hit another home run Tuesday night.
After the Marlins, it’s three with the Nationals. Then three on the road with the first place Braves. The Indians, Cubs, and Phillies are ahead. It does begin the test for the Mets.
But the momentum is there and all the factors have come together. You get the feeling this is a real turn around. The next week more of these factors could play a role as to how realistic this has been.
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