PHILADELPHIA -- Standing in the visiting manager's office at Citizens Bank Park prior to Friday's showdown with Phillies ace Aaron Nola, Mets manager Mickey Callaway acknowledged that his club had a "tall order in front of us."
In the same breath, the skipper quickly added: "But we have to get it done today."
The victory snapped a six-game losing streak and kept New York within five games of the Cubs for the final National League Wild Card spot.
"The other guy [Nola] was rolling and our backs are a little bit against the wall right now," Callaway said. "And Zack stepped up big time.”
But it wasn't just Wheeler.
A night that began with the Mets coming within nine outs of a seventh straight loss instead ended with a blueprint for what the club will need to do to keep its postseason hopes alive.
Here's a look at the three areas that not only helped put New York back in the win column, but could ultimately determine the team's fate down the stretch.
Nola breezed through the first six innings while allowing just two hits, but Wheeler single-handedly kept the Mets within striking distance. He held the Phils to just one run over six innings -- and even worked a seven-pitch walk against Nola to help drive up his pitch count.
"Their starter, Nola, was fantastic. That was one of the best games I’ve seen him pitch," Callaway said. "He was pretty good today, but Wheeler matched him pitch for pitch and kept us in the game, gave us a chance."
It was exactly the type of start that both the Mets and Wheeler needed. New York's starting rotation had put up a 6.17 ERA during its six-game losing streak, while Wheeler entered with a 6.75 ERA over his last three outings. He had notched just as many walks (seven) as strikeouts in those starts.
"It's a big game," Wheeler said. "Losing six in a row, you need to get back on the right track, and that's all I was trying to do tonight -- put up zeroes and try to give us a chance to win."
Even with Wheeler putting up a handful of zeroes over six innings, the Mets were staring at a 1-0 deficit entering the seventh. After loading the bases with one out, pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos delivered a game-tying RBI single that not only extended the longest hitting streak in the Majors this season to 23 games, but also ended Nola's night.
Though the Mets managed just the one run from that bases-loaded situation, they took full advantage of another opportunity with the bags full one inning later. Amed Rosario hit a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth, and Frazier followed with the first of his two three-run shots.
“[Rosario], Ramos -- those are the [hits] that we’ve been missing," Callaway said. "Then you kind of get rolling, and you see the by product of that -- we put up 10 more. Great job, they kept on grinding."
New York scored five runs apiece in the eighth and ninth innings, each keyed by a three-run homer from Frazier. It was his 10th career multi-homer game, while his six RBIs matched a personal best.
Overall, the Mets went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position after going 7-for-48 (.146) in those spots during the six-game slide. It also marked the first time since June 30, 2000, that the Mets put up at least 11 runs in a game in which they were held scoreless through six innings.
"You just understand [Nola's] making his pitches, but hopefully, you can get him out before nine and beat up on the bullpen," Callaway said. "That’s exactly what our team did.”
Diaz returning to form?
Not to be lost in the late offensive surge, right-hander Edwin Díaz turned in a second consecutive dominant performance.
The right-hander retired the side in order in the eighth on just 10 pitches, one of which was clocked at 100.3 mph -- his fastest pitch of the season. Diaz struck out two of the three hitters he faced Friday after striking out all three batters in a perfect inning Wednesday.
"Wow, that was fantastic tonight," Callaway said. "97-98 [mph] at the bottom of the zone, executing the slider -- that’s vintage Diaz."
The Mets still have a long way to go to make up five games in the Wild Card hunt with only 28 to play, but a resurgence from Diaz and Frazier -- combined with a strong starting rotation -- would certainly put New York in the mix.
"We’ve been that late-inning team all year," Callaway said. "We feel like we’re going to beat up on teams once we get in their bullpen if we don’t get to the starter, and that’s usually been the case. That can definitely spearhead what we need to do."