MIAMI -- As the Mets pushed July into the past on Sunday, they did so with rightful optimism for the future.
Over the course of the month, the Mets welcomed Max Scherzer back into their rotation and prepared to reunite with Jacob deGrom. They won their final six games of July, including a 9-3 victory over the Marlins on Sunday that maintained the club's three-game NL East lead. New York's entire rotation is healthy; its entire lineup is about to be. The Mets expect to make trades in the coming days to fortify their bullpen and bench ahead of Tuesday's Trade Deadline. Their odds to qualify for the playoffs, according to Fangraphs calculations, stand at 99.9%.
In short, these are the halcyon days. It is a very good time to be a Met.
“We’re happy, but we know the mission is not accomplished,” said shortstop Francisco Lindor, who went 7-for-11 in the three-game sweep at loanDepot Park. “One of the best things that the team has done since Day One is turning the page. It’s great. We celebrate, now get on the plane and move on. It feels good to be winning, but we’ve got to turn the page. Tomorrow, we have a different opponent. We’ve got to take care of business no matter who’s out there.”
New York’s final act of July was a clinical drubbing of the Marlins. Eight members of the starting lineup scored a run on Sunday -- most of them off Pablo López, who owns a 9.00 ERA in three outings against the Mets and a 2.73 mark against everyone else. Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker did enough to win. The bullpen did enough to keep Edwin Díaz and other high-leverage relievers glued to the bench. Everything hummed and whirred to near perfection -- midseason form, as it were.
“They’re a tough club because they do a lot of different things,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “They put the ball in play on you, number one, and every guy seems to fight you. There’s no really easy outs up and down that lineup. It’s a battle to get through there, and it wears you down.
“Offensively, for us, they’ve probably been our biggest [challenge]. We’ve slowed them down some at different times but haven’t really been able to keep their main guys from doing damage.”
With few exceptions, Mets hitters are clicking. Brandon Nimmo drove home two runs and scored one on Sunday. Lindor and Mark Canha each rapped out three hits. Pete Alonso recorded the game’s first RBI, his league-leading 85th. And so on and so forth, all the way down to nine-hole hitter Patrick Mazeika, whose contributions included a violent bunt single to beat a defensive overshift.
To be clear, midsummer success won’t mean much if the Mets fail to maintain it into September and October. They still must improve before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline, with left-handed relief help at the top of their wish list. deGrom has to prove he’s truly healthy this time. The rest of the Mets must stay on the field around him.
But at a time when other clubs are scrambling to get healthy or to make moves, the Mets find themselves in relatively fine shape. An old baseball axiom is that once Opening Day arrives, no one is 100 percent again until November.
The Mets right now? They’re about as close as a team can come.
“It’s a good body of work for July,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Lindor expressed a measure of curiosity at what the Mets will do before Tuesday’s Deadline, though there’s relatively little mystery there. The Mets will upgrade; at this point, it’s only the names that are still unknown. After that, New York players understand there’s plenty of additional work to do, and that things won’t always proceed this swimmingly.
The Mets have simply put themselves in position to ensure a high chance at success.
“We’ve still got two months to play here, and I think we know we’ve just got to take it one day at a time,” Canha said. “It’s cliché, but it’s so true. You can always have letdowns wherever. These are big league teams we’re playing against that are capable of beating you on any given day. You just have to come out and be methodical and be routine and just keep doing what we’re doing.”