Mets get back to .500 after deGrom does it all

August 6th, 2019

NEW YORK -- The climb was more than two months in the making, and at times, it seemed as if the Mets might never complete it. The first step in reestablishing themselves as bona fide contenders, the Mets knew, was to clamber back up to .500. Only from there could they pursue loftier goals.

So it was with some measure of anticipation that the Mets finally drew even on Monday, beating the Marlins, 6-2, in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Citi Field to move to .500 for the first time since May 28. Barely three weeks ago, the Mets were 11 games under, staring up at all but one team -- the Marlins -- in the National League Wild Card standings. They are 2 1/2 games back with the win, trailing half as many clubs.

“It’s definitely another step up, but we still have to win baseball games to get back in the Wild Card,” starting pitcher said. “We’ve still got work to do. I think everybody in there knows that. We’re excited to be at .500, but we still have to go out and win baseball games.”

Throughout the Mets’ recent run, they have relied heavily on starting pitching, and so they did Monday with deGrom on the hill. Relatively shaky early, deGrom allowed consecutive doubles to open the second inning, but he recovered to retire 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. The only exception was rookie Isan Diaz, who led off the sixth with a homer.

By that time, the Mets were leading by plenty, thanks to Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario, who both homered, and deGrom himself, who singled home two runs in the fourth. The Mets scored six in total off Marlins starter Robert Dugger, who lasted five innings in his Major League debut.

With that, the Mets returned to .500 -- a mark they were at risk of not seeing again until Opening Day 2020. Mostly, this surge has been thanks to deGrom and the rotation, which owns an NL-leading 2.59 ERA since the All-Star break. That, in turn, has helped the bullpen climb from 28th in ERA since the break to sixth since that time.

“It means a lot,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “These guys have stayed focused. They know they can do something special, and we’re going to continue to strive to do that.”

Still, as deGrom noted, much work remains. Most of the Mets’ recent damage has come against sub-.500 teams like the Marlins, who own the NL’s worst record. Stiffer tests will come later this month against the Nationals, Braves, Indians and Cubs, giving the Mets a chance to prove once and for all if their recent play is real, or merely a mirage.

“We know we’re far from our goal,” Callaway said. “We have to continue to climb and climb and climb, and scratch and claw, and I have a feeling these guys are going to do that.”