Atop the National League East with a record of 93-55, the Mets are closing in on a playoff spot. With 14 games left within the regular season, the one real query left is whether or not they may enter the postseason with a division title — and possibly a first-round bye — or a wild-card spot.
In a practice as old because the franchise, the Mets gave their fans reason to consider that their grip on the division was in jeopardy last week by the use of a sweep at home by the rebuilding Chicago Cubs — the primary time the Mets had been swept in a three-game series this season. Those doubts faded quickly, nonetheless, when the Mets woke up and accomplished a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning the series finale on Sunday, 7-3.
“It’s really hard to beat a significant league team 4 times,” Manager Buck Showalter said. “Every team is slightly weary of this time of yr — mentally emotionally, physically — you bought to maintain going, keep going, knowing there’s a pot of gold down the road.”
In some ways, Sunday’s win was emblematic of what it takes to make a deep run within the playoffs. A solid — but short — outing from a starter, quality innings from the bullpen, a productive offense, aggressiveness on the basepaths and late-inning theatrics.
Striking out 20 batters without allowing a walk helped as well.
After giving up a leadoff double to shortstop Oneil Cruz in the primary, Jacob deGrom set the tone for the day quickly by striking out the following three batters he faced. He lacked some efficiency, and allowed a three-run homer to Cruz within the sixth that ended his day. But he still got here away with a season-high 13 strikeouts.
That kept up because the game went along. Seth Lugo was the primary out of the bullpen, striking out one within the sixth. Joely Rodríguez struck out five over two innings, and Trevor May closed things out with one within the ninth. That made the Mets the ninth team in major league history to strike out 20 in a nine-inning game
Showalter said he was more happy with his pitchers for not giving up any walks than he was for the massive variety of strikeouts.
“That’s hard to do in today’s game when individuals are chasing walks in a whole lot of cases,” Showalter said.
Despite the ability pitching, the sport was tied, 3-3, within the eighth inning when the Mets found a rally because of a newcomer. Catcher Tomás Nido singled and was removed for a pinch-runner, Terrance Gore. After three pickoff attempts from Pirates reliever Manny Bañuelos, Gore stole second, then advanced to 3rd after a throwing error by catcher Jason Delay. Brandon Nimmo singled to usher in Gore and provides the Mets a 4-3 lead.
The Mets added three more insurance runs, but Gore made his presence known, and was credited by Showalter after the sport for being “a student of baserunning.”
Gore, a pinch-running specialist who was called up from Class AAA this month, said he would often study video for an hour before a game to have a bonus on the basepaths.
“I take a whole lot of pride in it,” Gore said. “I attempt to make it my perfection and just take pride in what I do.”
The Mets now head to Milwaukee for a three-game series against the Brewers, and so they could clinch the playoffs as soon as early this week. However the Atlanta Braves, who swept the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend, have stayed right behind the Mets, trailing by one game within the N.L. East.
The Mets will finish out the regular season totally on the road, with only five remaining games at home. Their most important series, in actual fact, will are available in Atlanta, starting Sept. 30, and that three-game set could effectively determine the division. Due to baseball’s recent playoff format, the team that finishes on top might skip the wild-card round entirely, as the highest two division winners in each league advance on to a division series.
Showalter said his players are hungry and able to clinch a spot within the playoffs, but that nothing is determined yet.
“You earn every little thing on this game, and our guys proceed to earn it every day,” he said.
Helping matters is the expected return of Max Scherzer, who’s scheduled to start out for the Mets on Monday night. He had been placed on the 15-day injured list earlier this month after he exited a start with left-side fatigue.
After the sport on Sunday, Scherzer was relaxed within the Mets clubhouse, as were the remaining of the Mets, with some playing billiards and others, including deGrom, table tennis.
In between games, deGrom told reporters that the sweep against Pittsburgh was “big for us,” especially after being swept against Chicago. But he said the team never lost faith.
“I wouldn’t say there’s been an enormous mood shift,” deGrom said. “This group does job of coming in the identical way day by day, and the goal is to win baseball games.”