Masters of chaos, gritty Mets never 'flinched'

5-run 11th inning caps wild slugfest victory over Reds

July 20th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- The Mets have won two straight games, which might seem unremarkable if taken at face value. But consider this: On Sunday, they stormed back from a six-run deficit to beat the Pirates, dampening the effects of one of the more bizarre defensive misplays in recent memory. A night later, they perhaps topped even that.

The Mets lost three leads but erased multiple deficits en route to one of their wildest, wackiest wins of the season: a 15-11, 11-inning victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. In a game that featured seven Mets homers, multiple blown saves and nearly five hours of baseball, New York finally sealed things with a five-run rally in the 11th.

“There’s a lot of words that come to mind, but the first phrase is just the resistance that this team shows,” catcher James McCann said. “The persistent fight, the never-give-in mentality … it’s a full-team, persistent drive to continue until the very last pitch of the game.”

On Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Mets stormed back despite a win probability that reached a low of 4 percent. The following night in Cincinnati, that figure sunk as far as 10 percent. It could have been near-zero as far as the Mets were concerned; to a man, they claim that they’re never out of a game, and they’ve completed more than enough comebacks to prove that’s not just talk.

Nearly every hitter played a role in Monday’s real-life version of Chutes and Ladders, which began after the Mets committed four errors in two innings behind spot starter Jerad Eickhoff. Just like that, they found themselves in a 7-3 hole -- “and no one flinched,” as outfielder Kevin Pillar put it.

In the fifth, Dominic Smith hit a game-tying homer -- the first of four Mets hits that either tied the game or gave them the lead. When New York fell behind again in the seventh inning, McCann clubbed a pinch-hit, two-run, go-ahead homer off Josh Osich in the eighth. When Edwin Díaz blew his third consecutive save opportunity in the ninth inning, McCann again came through with an RBI single in the 10th. When even that lead evaporated, Jeff McNeil gave them their third and final lead with an RBI single in the 11th.

Then the Mets teed off, relying on Pillar and Michael Conforto’s back-to-back homers to provide what seemed like -- finally, blessedly -- a lead that might be safe. In typical 2021 Mets fashion, New York asked a new acquisition, Anthony Banda, to record four key outs, before Trevor May -- pitching in a third consecutive game for the first time this season -- nailed down two more for the save, animatedly pumping his fist some four hours and 45 minutes after the game began.

“The concession stands must have made a whole lot of money tonight,” interim manager Dave Jauss quipped, laughing and grinning throughout a dreamlike postgame press conference.

Jauss was subbing for regular manager Luis Rojas, who is serving a two-game suspension for “excessive arguing” during the first inning of Sunday’s win -- an event that Mets players have credited for sparking them. But if it wasn’t Rojas, it would have been something else; these Mets tend not to need much to ignite them. And while “resilience” is a term thrown around far too often in the context of 162-game seasons, the Mets do seem to feature a certain chutzpah not always present in other teams.

Already this season, the Mets have survived injuries to nearly every significant player on their roster, at one point staying afloat despite 17 players on the injured list. This past weekend, they placed their two highest-paid players -- shortstop Francisco Lindor and two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom -- on the IL.

They responded with two of their unlikelier wins of the season.

Afterward, the Mets partied as they do after every victory, sometimes bringing smoke machines and laser lights into the clubhouse. Each night, they name a player and a pitcher of the game and have them make short speeches. Following each win, the Mets like to recognize all who contributed. Following losses, they hold similar ceremonies to assure struggling players that they won’t be down for long.

“Everyone puts the team first, and it’s kind of one of those cultures that’s just been created from Spring Training,” McCann said. “That’s something that Luis preaches. That’s something that the veterans in the clubhouse preach. It’s, ‘Buy into this culture, or you’re really not going to fit in.’ And every single guy that has walked through those doors to the clubhouse has bought in.”

As a result, the Mets have spent more than 10 consecutive weeks in first place. Little about it has been easy, and many of the Mets’ myriad problems -- from Díaz to deGrom to Lindor to the rotation and so much more -- aren’t going away anytime soon.

Right now, the Mets don’t care. So long as they can keep translating their desire into results, they’ll remain convinced they can survive anything.

“From the front office down to the manager down to the coaching staff, the trainers and then the players, that clubhouse, that dugout, that group of people, men and women … have a bond,” Jauss said. “That’s a special way to describe what our fans are watching on the field.”