Flushing, NY: Now the test will come for the NY Mets. Wednesday afternoon they completed a four-game sweep over the last place Miami Marlins at Citi Field. This seemed easy for a Mets team that won their sixth straight and 13th in their last 14 games.
And this resurgence since the All-Star break, one that has put the Mets a game from a NL wild card spot, is attributed in many ways to pitching and production from what is becoming a dangerous lineup.
With a hamstring injury to Robinson Cano this week, that will likely end his season, the Mets had to step up a bit at the plate. Though Cano had a miserable first half of the season, prior to the injury he was finding his way to get on base and knock in runs.
So after the Mets 7-2 win, which earned them their seventh series sweep of the season, third against Miami, awaiting them Friday night are the Washington Nationals. They are one of the teams vying for a wild card and now neck-and-neck with the Mets for one or two wild card spots.
The last time these teams saw each other, in May at Citi Field, the Mets swept a four- game series as the Nationals were a struggling team and sustaining more than one difficult loss due to a failure of their bullpen.
After that sweep, the Mets started to play inconsistent baseball. Starters could no go deep into games and their bullpen gave up more than one lead that could have led to wins.
The season low point was falling 11-games below .500 before the All_Star break and the Mets quickly falling out of contention. Once a pitching staff with the worst team ERA in baseball is no more.
The Mets as a pitching staff enter the Nationals series with a 2.80 ERA which leads all teams in baseball after the break. The bullpen has turned it around also with seven saves, 3.16 ERA since the All-Star break which sits second in the National League after being next to last.
Steven Matz gave the Mets another strong start . 6.2 innings, 7 hits, two runs earned, seven strikeouts. And the bullpen got two-and-a- half innings of scoreless relief from Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, and Luis Avilan.
So this is quite a contrast. The offense has also come together and the Mets are the talk of baseball.
“We’re trying to accomplish something as a team together that can be very special and then the things that we’ve gone through, some rough patches, have only brought us closer together,” manager Mickey Callaway said.
His team hit four more home runs. Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto had his first multi home run game since July 28, 2017, and Jeff McNeil hit his 15th.
The home run Mets hit 11 in the Marlins series. They have 83 home runs in 52 home games. So the offense, with Conforto, Alonso, and McNeil are a potent three.
And this does not include Amed Rosario and Wilson Ramos. In this series sweep both had huge hits, though Rosario went 0-for-4 Wednesday.
Regardless, up and down the lineup, the Mets have been doing something special.
“If we were a team that had just breezed through until now and been in a similar spot, we wouldn’t be as close of a unit so there is a silver lining to our struggles,” Callaway said.
The manager was looking at the first half. This team was built to win, but a second half surge has changed everything, and now the test comes with the Nationals and three at the division leading Atlanta Braves next week.
“Everybody’s just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing as individuals and as a team,” Matz said.
Familia has improved out of the bullpen, one run in his last five outings. Now the Mets hope to get the struggling Edwin Diaz back to normal, the closer, who has allowed five runs in his last six appearances and has a career five blown saves.
“We work off each other,” Familia said. “We never gave up. This is a baseball. A long season. Everyone here believed we could do what we are doing now.”
Seth Lugo gets more time out of the pen and is scoreless in his last 14 games and
But three weeks does make a difference. The Mets since the break are 19-6 and the hot team in baseball. The record 59-56, and in contention. So the Nationals and Mets will resume their rivalry at Citi Field in an important August series.
“What we’ve done is not easy,” Callaway said. “But it’s in the past. If we keep on playing the way we’ve been playing we’re going to continue to do good things.”
And if the Mets keep this going, the play and attitude are there, something special could happen. But the test begins Friday with the Nationals.
They take that series, or sweep, it is no longer the first half Mets and it means playing more meaningful baseball down the stretch.
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