'This is who we are': Mets sweep Phils in DH

April 14th, 2021

NEW YORK -- So that’s what the 2021 Mets are supposed to look like.

Hampered early in April by a disjointed schedule, five postponed or suspended games, an offense that froze like a blue screen with runners in scoring position, a bullpen that struggled to finish off games, two top-of-the-order hitters hardly producing and a fan base rapidly growing weary of it all, the Mets on Tuesday became better versions of themselves in a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies at Citi Field.

In so doing, they moved above .500 and into first place for the first time on the young season.

“I like it when we play like that,” said Jonathan Villar, the Mets’ Game 1 hero.

“We were missing that,” manager Luis Rojas added.

Hours after stealing a 4-3 win in extra innings in the day half of the doubleheader, the Mets constructed arguably their most complete game of the year in the nightcap, riding 's strong effort to a 4-0 victory over the Phillies. Dialing his fastball up to mid-90s levels he hasn’t reached regularly since 2017, Stroman completed six shutout innings and would have gone longer had he not spent most of the bottom of the sixth on the bases. By that point, Stroman had already completed the tough part anyway, retiring the first nine batters in succession and facing the minimum through his first four innings.

That’s about when the Mets’ offense went to work. Villar, who hit a walk-off single in Game 1 of the doubleheader, opened the Game 2 scoring with an RBI double off Phillies ace Aaron Nola, who later ceded a two-run single to Brandon Nimmo. That fourth-inning rally began when Jeff McNeil hustled to beat out an infield hit (or at least make it close enough to prevent umpires from overturning the call on review).

In that manner, the Mets managed to upend the Phillies -- twice -- and put themselves in the National League East pole position despite receiving little production so far from Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto, James McCann and other central pieces of their roster. Given what Nimmo (.581 on-base percentage), Dominic Smith (two home runs, including one in Game 1), and the team’s rotation (five quality starts in seven games; 2.43 ERA) have provided, the Mets haven’t needed everyone to contribute quite yet.

“To be able to play like we did tonight, to come together as a team and have such a great team win … that’s how we drew it up,” Nimmo said. “Very relieving to have that one in the books and to play that well tonight. It’s hard to sweep doubleheaders. And so to come away with two wins tonight, I think it was just a great tell of things to come.”

Rojas called Tuesday an example of the Mets’ “identity,” adding that “this is who we are.” And while seven games may not be nearly enough to define a team, representing less than 5% of the regular season, these Mets have spent enough time together to notice some trends. They harped on relatively small acts, like Luis Guillorme contorting his body to tag would-be basestealer Roman Quinn in Game 1 of the doubleheader, or McNeil beating out his infield hit in Game 2. Those types of efforts tend to beget greater victories over time.

And through all their roster changes over the past six months, the Mets have apparently not lost the jovial spirit that Smith, Conforto, Pete Alonso and other young players helped foster back in 2019, when the Mets nearly erased a sizable early-season deficit to make the playoffs. After Alonso doubled in the fifth inning of Game 2 on Tuesday, Lindor and Guillorme stood tall atop the dugout steps, waving their arms like “Peanuts” characters dancing to “Linus & Lucy.”

If it’s cliché to note that players feed off such energy, then let it be cliché. Stroman compared the vibe to his experience from 2015-16 in Toronto, when the Blue Jays made consecutive American League Championship Series appearances.

The Mets, he indicated, can accomplish the same type of thing -- or more.

“I think we’re extremely resilient,” Stroman said. “I think we have an incredible group of guys. I think we have an entire clubhouse of guys who don’t waver, who stay even-keeled through the ups and the lows, and I think that’s incredibly important. … I love it. I love what we have.”