After a doubleheader sweep of the Pirates last Wednesday, it looked like the Mets were back on track. With no game Thursday, they had time to rest and prepare to take care of business in Miami against the Marlins.
That didn’t happen Friday, as they lost 6-3. With yet another Braves victory, that meant New York officially wasn’t a first-place team for the first time since April. Nobody wanted to see this happen, but if you went to those deep, dark places of #MetsTwitter, the season was over for the 10,000th time.
Did manager Buck Showalter’s club collapse? Was it going to get worse? These are the types of questions a fanbase asks when they’ve been through tons of pain and mental anguish over the years.
But then the sun came out on Saturday, and the Mets looked like their old selves again. The offense came alive with an 11-3 victory and followed that with a 9-3 win on Sunday. To make things even better, Atlanta lost on Saturday and Sunday to the Mariners. Not only is New York back in first place as the squad returns to Citi Field, but Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and friends have a 1.5-game cushion to boot.
Falling out of first place isn’t an ideal scenario, but was it the best thing that could’ve happened to the Mets? Check out this quote Starling Marte provided back in May (h/t to Jolly Olive for bringing this tweet back on my timeline):
Starling Marte on the Mets coming back from behind:
"That's not what we focus on. Sometimes we like being down just so we can come back and win the game and make a comeback there" pic.twitter.com/aapvjEcNp9
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 31, 2022
Obviously, this quote is unrelated to everything that’s transpired in the NL East over the past couple of months. But isn’t this still fascinating to think about? We’ve seen this from New York all season. It feels like they make scoring runs immediately after getting scored upon the inning prior part of their daily routine.
The Mets have been in sole possession of first place for virtually the entire year. That’s a great thing and no team would want to give up that spot. In New York’s case, it had a 10.5-game lead by the end of May, only to watch Atlanta win at a ridiculous pace to catch up. That can make any team lose a little motivation, especially if they’ve played well over that same period, as the Mets have. Instead of folding when things get tough, we’ve seen the Mets roll up their sleeves and get to work.
MLB’s regular season is a 162-game marathon. Players all over the league are banged-up and tired after five-plus months of baseball. New York is certainly in that group. Lindor talked about it on Friday:
"It's that time of the year. A lot of us kind of hit the wall. We've got to find ways to break through the wall, and do it together. That's what good teams do. I'm sure we're going to do it"
– Francisco Lindor pic.twitter.com/ImVBMpsCcE
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 10, 2022
As you can imagine, the replies to this tweet weren’t great (trust me — don’t look). Were the Mets just laying down and surrendering the division? Now that the Miami series is complete, we know this isn’t the case.
They came out on Saturday night with a little extra pep in their step. That culminated with an eight-run fourth inning that was capped by Mark Canha’s first career grand slam, and then they were off to the races. The same thing could be said on Sunday. New York got out to a big early lead and never looked back with Taijuan Walker on the mound.
What I noticed about both these wins was that New York kept the pressure on the Marlins, even when the game appeared to be out of reach. The offense tacked on runs, the rotation did its job, and while some runs were scored, the bullpen didn’t let anything get out of hand.
That sense of urgency and focus was there, and it’s nice to see it return as the regular season is nearing the final stretch. Will the Mets hold onto first place and never relinquish it again? Maybe yes, but maybe no. They will likely be fighting with the Braves until the very last out of Game 162. It just seems like things are trending that way.
What we can be sure of is one thing, though. We’ve seen all year that this Mets team is just built differently from other recent iterations. Whenever they get knocked down, they won’t just stay down without putting up a fight.
So, yea — maybe losing sole possession of first place was exactly what the doctor ordered to light the fire one more time for the stretch run. We’ll see what happens from here, but it should continue to be an exciting ride.
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