NEW YORK -- The Mets will not die.
Over the course of five and a half months, the Mets’ National League competitors have dealt them a ringing series of blows, any one of which could have effectively ended their season. On each occasion, the Mets have lifted themselves up, dusted themselves clean and (sometimes, anyway) ripped off their jerseys in celebration. Fresh off a disappointing series loss to the Phillies last weekend, the Mets rebounded this week with a four-game series sweep of the D-backs.
They seem to know no other way. In Thursday’s 11-1 victory, Juan Lagares hit his first career grand slam, he and his teammates slugged a franchise record six home runs at Citi Field, Marcus Stroman produced his best start since coming to New York and the Mets, in sweeping the D-backs, put a significant dent in Arizona’s playoff chances.
They now stand two games behind the Brewers and Cubs, who both won on Thursday, for the NL’s second Wild Card spot, with 16 to play.
“I think we’re where we expected to be,” Callaway said. “A chance to do something special.”
Much as they did in Wednesday’s blowout at Citi Field, the Mets took an early lead Thursday and never jeopardized it. Todd Frazier opened the scoring with a home run off D-backs starter Alex Young in the second. An inning later, Pete Alonso reached base on a throwing error to spark a rally. The Mets followed with two singles and a walk, before Lagares crushed a grand slam to left.
“The confidence of this group, it’s kind of unwavering,” Stroman said. “I feel like you show up in the clubhouse and we feel like we’re going to win each and every day. We kind of have that collective feeling. That’s not something you can install. It’s just something that’s kind of there.”
“Resiliency” may be an overused term in baseball. Over a 162-game season, every team experiences highs and lows. There’s a bit of resiliency in all of them, almost by default.
What the Mets have demonstrated this year is something different, something deeper. Consider:
Blow: The Mets lost three straight in Miami from May 17-19, putting manager Mickey Callaway’s job status in question.
Response: General manager Brodie Van Wagenen issued Callaway a public vote of confidence, and the Mets responded with a four-game sweep of the Nationals at home.
Blow: On June 29, the Mets lost their seventh consecutive game, including two to the Braves to fall 13 games behind them in the NL East race.
Response: The Mets hung around. They won seven of their next 11 wrapped around the All-Star break to stay at least somewhat relevant in the Wild Card standings.
Response: The Mets did not sell anyone other than Jason Vargas. Instead, Van Wagenen added Stroman, then implored his players to find a way back into the playoff race. By Aug. 10, their playoff odds were back up to 53 percent.
Blow: Riding all that aforementioned momentum, the Mets suffered consecutive sweeps at the hands of the Braves and Cubs. Five days later, they carried a 10-4 lead into the ninth inning in Washington only to lose, 11-10.
Response: The Mets won the following afternoon, and have taken six of eight since that time. They’re still technically underdogs to make the playoffs, but it doesn’t feel that way inside the walls of their clubhouse.
So indeed, “resiliency” may be an overused term, but the Mets believe in it. They believe they can tap into it when they need it the most.
And if they believe it, that may be all that matters.
“We’re not playing uptight in a situation where we could be,” Conforto said. “We haven’t been able to hold onto some games in the first half, but I think we’ve turned the corner here. We’re looking forward to making a push.”