'We're never out of a game': Resilient Mets win 4th straight series

April 17th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Less than two weeks ago, as the Mets fell to 0-5 and were on the brink of losing half a dozen straight to start the season, it might have seemed as if the baseball gods had no interest in helping them. It was Murphy’s law in full effect: Everything that could go wrong was doing just that.

How quickly the correction has come. Not only are the Mets winning with regularity, they’re even leaning on some good fortune to do it. Consider their 3-1 win over the Pirates on Tuesday night at Citi Field -- their ninth victory in 12 games which secured a fourth straight series win:

  • The go-ahead run came home on a Jose Hernandez balk in the seventh inning, before Hernandez threw a single pitch.
  • The tying run came courtesy of Joey Wendle, a seldom-used bench player who entered half an inning earlier because Brett Baty tweaked his left hamstring.
  • Pittsburgh’s standout rookie starting pitcher, Jared Jones, departed after five scoreless one-hit innings, because the Pirates are trying to limit his workload.

It all helped. And the Mets will take whatever help they can get.

“Nothing’s easy,” manager Carlos Mendoza said, chuckling at the notion that the baseball gods might finally be smiling on his club. “I just like how guys are preparing, how they’re coming together and the feeling that we’re never out of a game. But I wouldn’t say it’s easy.”

It sure looks easier than it did two weeks ago, however, in large part because of the contributions from lesser-known players on the roster. Take Wendle, for example.

Once Baty suffered a minor left hamstring pull running out a ground ball in the fifth inning, Wendle had about 15 minutes to prepare himself to enter the game. When he did so an inning later, Wendle almost immediately found himself at the plate with two runners on base and the Mets trailing by a run.

In just his 13th plate appearance of the season, Wendle shot a ball into left field for a game-tying double.

“It seems like every night, it’s been somebody different for this team,” Wendle said. “We’ve found ways to win baseball games in the last two weeks in a lot of different ways.”

Another was Hernandez’s run-scoring balk, which prompted Mendoza to leap up the dugout steps as umpires deliberated on whether to call it. Ultimately, they did, and even Pirates manager Derek Shelton acknowledged after the game that “the umpires did a good job.”

But the personification of New York’s pluckiness might just be Reed Garrett, a journeyman reliever who spent 2020-21 in Japan and entered this season with a career 7.11 Major League ERA.

Over the offseason, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and vice president of pitching Eric Jagers were among those who lobbied the Mets to keep Garrett on the roster. He returned this spring featuring a revamped sinker, which he now throws nearly as often as his four-seamer, plus improved command of his splitter.

The Mets could have sent Garrett down following multi-inning appearances earlier this month, as is often the fate of optionable relievers. But team officials decided not to, because they were quickly beginning to consider Garrett an integral part of their bullpen.

Garrett responded with two scoreless innings in relief of Jose Quintana, striking out six Pirates to earn his second win of the season. Garrett joined Alejandro Peña (June 30, 1991) as the only Mets relief pitchers to record six strikeouts in a two-inning appearance, while Garrett’s 17 strikeouts are the most by a Mets reliever in their first four outings of the season.

“I can’t say enough about Reed Garrett,” Wendle said.

“Whatever he’s been doing,” Quintana added, “keep it going, bro.”

Whatever the Mets have been doing, they seem to be keeping it going with ease. They’re doing so despite one of the toughest schedules thus far. And they’re doing so without major contributions from veterans such as Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor, who are bound to catch fire at some point.

Tuesday, the Mets went above .500 for the first time in nearly a full calendar year, since they were 30-29 last June 3. It’s been a while since the baseball gods have smiled on them, but perhaps they’ve waited long enough for their turn.

“I think we all are doing whatever we can,” Garrett said. “We all hype each other up, we all pick each other up. … That is a camaraderie that’s special.”