Mets' streak at 6 after deGrom strikes out 11

July 31st, 2019

CHICAGO -- Hours after the Trade Deadline came and went, after Mets officials finished spinning their strategy as a way to stay relevant in 2019, the players stepped back between the lines to face the hard part.

This may indeed be a much-improved team, but to make an improbable run to the postseason, the Mets will have to achieve near-perfection down the stretch.

For , that meant more of the same Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field -- seven innings, one run, 11 strikeouts, no problem. For , it meant conquering whatever demons have haunted him for much of this season -- including the previous night, when he suffered his fifth blown save. For the Mets’ batters, it meant finding the key hit that so often has eluded them.

They did it all on Wednesday, vindicating general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s decision to buy, not sell, at the deadline. In beating the White Sox, 4-2, the Mets won their sixth consecutive game in what they hope will be just the beginning of a trend.

“We’re going to make a run at this thing,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “With this rotation, anything is possible.”

Rotation first

Callaway was speaking specifically to the addition of Marcus Stroman, as well as the Mets’ decision to keep both Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard past the trade deadline. He did not need to mention deGrom, because the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner’s value is obvious.

Uncharacteristically shaky early, deGrom allowed a run on two hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly in the third. From there, he grew stout, striking out seven of the next 10 batters he faced.

“I felt like I was kind of nibbling, not really going right after guys,” deGrom said. “After that inning, I was like, ‘Here it is, let's see if you can hit it.’ I made a lot better pitches from [then] on.”

The result was a vintage deGrom start: seven innings, one run. It also lowered the Mets’ rotation ERA since the All-Star break to 2.37, by far the best in the Major Leagues.

Key hits

A vintage deGrom start typically comes with a lack of run support, and Wednesday was no exception. An RBI groundout in the sixth inning was the only help the Mets provided their ace, as leadoff man battled right wrist discomfort and finished 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

Then something uncharacteristic happened: The Mets made up for it with a late rally. Facing White Sox closer Alex Colome, singled home a run to give the Mets their first lead, 2-1. Four batters later, added a two-run hit, which would prove significant.

Closing time

Diaz struck out the first two men he faced before allowing a Leury Garcia solo homer. Unlike the previous night, Diaz recovered -- he struck out Ryan Goins to end the game.

“That was much better than last night,” Callaway said. “I realize [he gave up] a homer, but I’m surprised it got out. I thought it was going to be a double. [Diaz] was under control. … It was a nice easy 97, 98 in the bottom of the zone … very under control and more around the zone with better timing with his arm. He looked good.”

If the Mets aim to continue improving down the stretch, fixing Diaz would be their easiest, quickest route. One of the team’s key offseason acquisitions, Diaz owns a 9.47 ERA since May 29 and has allowed a run in each of his last three outings.

Changing the narrative would be significant, considering there’s now a team around Diaz capable of doing more damage than ever. Several prominent players spoke Tuesday of how thankful they were that Van Wagenen did not dismantle their club at the Trade Deadline.

For the next two months, it will be the Mets’ job to vindicate that decision.

“This is a team that can win,” Callaway said. “This is what we envisioned all along. We have a ways to go. It’s not going to be easy. The odds are still against us, but there’s not one person in that room that doesn’t think we can get this done.”