MIAMI -- Mickey Callaway's face twisted in bafflement, trying and failing to find the right words, the right phrase, to describe what is happening around him.Callaway's Mets had just won their eighth straight game, 4-1 over the Marlins. They came from behind for the sixth time this season, batting around
MIAMI -- Mickey Callaway's face twisted in bafflement, trying and failing to find the right words, the right phrase, to describe what is happening around him.
Callaway's Mets had just won their eighth straight game, 4-1 over the Marlins. They came from behind for the sixth time this season, batting around in the four-run eighth inning to make a winner of Zack Wheeler in his return to the rotation. They improved to a Major League-best 10-1, extending the hottest start to a season in franchise history. They swept a road trip of at least six games for the first time in 27 years, and just the second time ever.
"I don't even know what to say," Callaway finally mustered. "They're just playing ball. It's great."
What the Mets are doing are establishing themselves as one of the Majors' contenders, a team that so many dismissed before the season for one reason or another. The Mets' start has become more than just historic; it has grown lengthy enough that all these wins -- the Mets are already 3.5 games ahead of the second-place Braves in the National League East, and 4.5 ahead of the Nationals -- can sustain them for a time when this run comes to an end, as they did during the pennant run in 2015.
For now, the Mets will enjoy the flawlessness for as long as it lasts. Whatever adversity they faced Wednesday came courtesy of Marlins starter Jarlin Garcia, who held them without a hit over the game's first six innings. But Marlins manager Don Mattingly removed Garcia at that time, citing a desire to protect the left-hander's arm as he converts from the bullpen to the rotation.
"It's time to go," Todd Frazier recalled saying when the Marlins removed Garcia, and he apparently meant it.
It was Frazier who struck first, hitting a two-out single off Drew Steckenrider to break up the no-hit bid in the seventh. An inning later, Adrian Gonzalez delivered a pinch-hit, two-run single to give the Mets their first lead, which they promptly extended on a Wilmer Flores RBI double and a Frazier sacrifice fly.
The opportunity came largely because Wheeler, following a one-start banishment to the Minor Leagues, held the Marlins to one run -- a Miguel Rojas solo homer -- in seven innings. From there, the Mets turned to Robert Gsellman, who struck out the side in the eighth, then Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos, who combined on the final three outs of the Mets' eighth straight victory.
"This is what we expected," Frazier said. "This is what we wanted to do. We're motivated to win."
Added Gonzalez: "Obviously people didn't believe in us going into the year, and now it's kind of changing their minds. But we knew what we had. And we know what we have going forward."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Beating the odds: Rather than have Juan Lagares face right-hander Tayron Guerrero with a man on base in the eighth inning, Callaway pinch-hit Michael Conforto, knowing the Marlins would counter with southpaw Chris O'Grady. The lefty-on-lefty matchup worked in the Mets' favor when Conforto doubled to put a pair of runners in scoring position with one out. Another left-handed pinch-hitter, Gonzalez, followed with a two-run single back up the middle.
"It's pretty good when you can play a game like that and have the quality hitters we had sitting on the bench," Callaway said. "You just have to make sure they get to hit."
Six is enough: With Garcia, the Marlins weighed the big picture more than the chance to make history. Garcia had never gone more than six innings in any of his 70 previous Major League appearances, so the left-hander didn't come out for the seventh. Seventy-seven pitches were also a career high for Garcia, who is transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation and is on a limit of around 120 innings this season.
"I felt like I could have kept going, but that's not my decision," Garcia said. "That's up to the manager. It's my first start out there, I understand what they're doing."
"If they want one, they can get one, too." -- Frazier, on whether he plans to give out salt and pepper T-shirts to members of ownership and the Mets' front office. Frazier printed up a second batch of the shirts this week for "everyone in the whole organization."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Wheeler's season debut completed the first rotation turn that he, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have taken in sequence. The last of those pitchers to make his big league debut, Matz, did so in 2015.
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki took a 98-mph Guerrero fastball off his left hand in the eighth inning, sending him to the ground in pain. Plawecki initially stayed in the game, but when his spot in the batting order came up again, Tomas Nido pinch-hit for him. X-rays were negative, which was good news for a Mets team that lost Travis d'Arnaud to an elbow ligament tear earlier in the day.
"Anytime you get hit in the hand like that, you get a little scared," Plawecki said. "But when I could move it right away and make a fist, it eased my mind a little bit. A couple of days and we'll be good." More >
Callaway said this week that his red-hot club "can't wait to get back home so our fans can cheer us on." The Mets will have their chance against the Brewers at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday, when Matz opens a six-game homestand at Citi Field.
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Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.