PITTSBURGH — Once again, reports of the Mets’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Between games of Wednesday’s doubleheader at PNC Park, Mets starter Chris Bassitt went out of his way to reference the idea (which he called “obviously a little extreme”) that the Mets’ three-game losing streak marked the beginning of an irrepressible spiral. The reality is much different, as Bassitt, Jacob deGrom and a resurgent offense demonstrated throughout a doubleheader sweep.
Behind seven shutout innings from deGrom, the Mets won the nightcap, 10-0, after enjoying a 5-1 victory in Game 1.
“I’m sure the world was going crazy,” Bassitt said of the club’s recent skid. “But we’re fine.”
The Mets came away from the day, and from Pittsburgh, holding a half-game lead over the Braves in the National League East, after they had briefly dipped into a tie with their rivals atop the division. And while those clubs may continue to jockey for position over the remainder of the season, the takeaway from Wednesday’s doubleheader was that the Mets are not simply going to shrivel. They are on a 102-win pace, which would be the second-best record in franchise history. They have played remarkably consistent baseball from April through September.
And they are now featuring a healthy deGrom, which may be the most critical aspect of all. Looking as dominant as ever against one of the NL’s lightest-hitting teams, deGrom retired 12 straight batters at one point, becoming the first pitcher in the last 40 years to string together at least that many consecutive outs in six straight outings. deGrom is also now tied for second all-time with 38 consecutive starts of allowing three or fewer earned runs.
“It’s like a video game,” catcher James McCann said. “Press what button you want, and it goes right to the [spot]”
If momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, as the old baseball adage goes, then the Mets never really needed to worry following three straight losses to the last-place Nationals and Pirates. It’s that formula that has allowed the Mets to become one of only two Major League teams not to lose more than three games in a row at any point this season. Their magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 11, giving them a chance to wrap up that business by the middle of this month. In many ways, things have never really stopped going swimmingly.
New York’s primary problem is the Braves, the only other team that’s managed to avoid losing four in a row over the course of the season. But the Mets aren’t playing the Braves right now, which means they’re not a pressing problem. When asked Wednesday if he had stayed up until 1 am ET to watch Atlanta claim a share of the divisional lead for the first time this season, manager Buck Showalter laughed and shook his head.
“It’s about us,” the Mets’ skipper said.
Showalter did admit to staying up late for other reasons, which were solely internal. He fretted over Max Scherzer’s impending assignment to the injured list, and how he might build out the rotation in Scherzer’s absence. He thought about the other players in his clubhouse nursing minor aches and pains, and also of his offense, which was slumping as badly as at any point this season.
Then Showalter caught what sleep he could, returned to PNC Park, and watched the Mets outscore the Pirates by 14 runs over two games to restore order to their universe.
“The mentality hasn’t changed,” said third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who homered in Game 1 and had four hits in Game 2. “We come in happy. We come in excited. We come in united. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on in the other games. We have the control.”
If the Mets take care of their own business, they will win the division, plain and simple. Coming into the season, shortstop Francisco Lindor spoke often about how he expected the NL East to be a tight race between the defending World Series champion Braves and the much-improved Mets. Through 138 games, Lindor has seen nothing to sway his opinion.
“It should be a tight race the whole entire time,” said Lindor, who collected two hits and three RBIs in the nightcap victory. “They have a good team. The Phillies as well. Three teams are competing for the playoffs in this division. They have really good ballclubs. At the end of the day, let’s see if we can lose less than they do.”