The Mets kept plugging replacements into their lineup, and pretty soon they started figuring out ways to win games. Rookies saved the starting rotation. Veterans transformed the bullpen.
And the offense ended up better and deeper than almost any in the game. Here’s the really interesting part of this whole thing: The Mets have been baseball’s best team for the past five weeks (27-12), and they are playing their best baseball at the most important time of the year.
The Mets’ 3.40 staff ERA during this stretch run has been the best in the Majors. Offensively, they have averaged 5.4 runs per game over the past nearly quarter of the season. Only the Braves have scored more runs in this time frame.
So who knows how long this thing will last? There’s the NL Wild Card Game to play against either San Francisco or St. Louis, and then possibly a Division Series matchup with the 102-win Chicago Cubs. Don’t underestimate the Mets.
If you had been watching them in mid-August, you would not have seen this coming. At that point, it looked like the numerous injuries and poor performances had finally broken them.
Even an epic postgame rant by Mets manager Terry Collins after a 9-0 home loss to the D-backs on Aug. 11th failed to stop the bleeding.
Collins unsatisfied with effort
ARI@NYM: Collins vents frustration after latest loss
Mets manager Terry Collins expresses his frustration with his struggling lineup after a 9-0 loss at home to the D-backs
And then eight days later, something more significant happened. Yoenis Cespedes returned from the disabled list. A day later, he hit two home runs in a 9-5 victory over the Giants.
Cespedes’ two-homer game
NYM@SF: Cespedes goes yard twice vs. Giants
Yoenis Cespedes launches a pair of solo homers against the Giants, one in the 3rd inning and another in the 7th
The Mets could not have known it at the time, but their ride to the postseason had begun. They’re still miles and miles from repeating last season’s run to the World Series, but they are both very good and very confident.
Let’s look at four reasons they should be:
• They still have Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon at the top of their rotation. Behind them, rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have emerged as season-saving contributors. The Mets have won 11 of the duo’s 15 starts, and they have a combined 2.44 ERA.
Funny how things work out. The Mets always figured to have one of baseball’s best rotations. Even after the injuries to Harvey, deGrom and Matz, they still do.
• Few bullpens are better. Mets relievers are 10-3 with a 3.19 ERA during the past five months, and they had a 23-inning shutout streak snapped on Saturday afternoon.
Familia’s 50th save
NYM@MIA: Familia records 50th save of the season
Jeurys Familia extends the club record with his 50th save, while also setting the record for the most saves by a Dominican-born pitcher
Postseason games are a grind, and at times it’s about getting five or six tough innings from a starter and then navigating through the final seven or eight outs. This is one of the strengths of the Mets.
• With Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Cespedes, Jay Bruce and others, the Mets may have the deepest postseason lineup. Bruce has gotten hot lately. Veterans James Loney and Kelly Johnson have been smart additions.
• Collins seemed to be on the hot seat when the Mets were 60-62 on Aug. 19th. No news there. He has been there almost since the day he arrived in Queens in 2011.
The truth of the matter is simpler: There aren’t many better managers, and Collins has proven it again in difficult circumstances.
Managers are tested mightily in a season like this one, when high expectations seem to be drowned in a sea of injuries and poor performances. But the Mets kept showing up and kept competing, and that kind of thing can almost always be traced back to the manager for setting the right tone.
They celebrated wildly on Saturday, letting go after a tough two-month grind. They’ll have a couple of days to catch their collective breaths before preparing for the next step. They do not believe the magic ride is over.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source: Mets News / Justice: Perseverance key to Mets’ season