MIAMI -- Sudden darlings of the National League, the Mets spent their weekend announcing themselves to the world. In sweeping the Nationals in Washington to match the best eight-game start in franchise history, the Mets entered the collective consciousness of those who had dismissed them. They graced the back pages of multiple New York tabloids. They became top-of-the-hour agenda items for talking heads near and far.
Inside their own clubhouse walls, however, the Mets maintained a businesslike air, understanding that eight good games left them with 154 to play. Then they set about the task of tackling that schedule, grabbing their sixth consecutive win Monday, 4-2, over a Marlins team widely expected to rank among baseball's worst.
With their eighth victory in nine tries, the Mets matched their 1985 and 2006 predecessors for the best nine-game start to a season in franchise history. They'll have a chance Tuesday, with Jacob deGrom on the mound, to become the first Mets team to begin a year 9-1.
"It's awesome," said closer Jeurys Familia, who struck out consecutive batters with the tying runs in scoring position to close things out in the ninth.
"It feels great," added shortstop Amed Rosario, who went 2-for-4. "If the team stays healthy, we have a [good] chance."
There were no grand slams at Marlins Park on Monday, no extra-inning dramatics or boxscore heroes. But the win counted the same, as the Mets well know. In 2015, they went 28-5 against the National League's three last-place teams: the Phillies, Reds and Rockies. Against the three NL East teams with losing records, the Mets were 36-21. They held their own against good teams and beat up on bad ones.
It's a formula they tried to emulate in Miami. Uncharacteristically vulnerable for a third consecutive start, Noah Syndergaard held the Marlins to two runs -- one earned -- in six innings, departing with a 3-2 lead thanks to RBI hits by Adrian Gonzalez and Jay Bruce, and a run-scoring double-play ball from Kevin Plawecki. The Mets then followed a familiar script, tacking on insurance runs in the later innings while their bullpen threw up zeros.
In that manner, the Mets avoided what could have been a letdown. Although Syndergaard flew ahead, the rest of the Mets arrived at their Miami hotel at around 5 a.m. ET following a 12-inning win over the Nationals on Sunday. They played in front of just 7,003 fans at Marlins Park -- less than a third of the number that watched them in Washington.
Guarding against complacency, manager Mickey Callaway instructed his team to report late to the ballpark, cancelling batting practice and personally hitting a few fungoes to select infielders before the game. Otherwise, the Mets slept and relaxed, then geared up to take their crack at more franchise history.
"I think everybody's tired today," Familia said. "But at the same time, we're hungry to keep playing the way we're playing right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Time to exhale: After the Mets padded their lead to two in the seventh, reliever Hansel Robles got into some two-out trouble. Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas singled, putting the potential tying runs on base. But Robles struck out Starlin Castro on a 83-mph slider to end the threat.
"I feel like they're all going out there throwing the ball over the plate, not beating themselves," Callaway said of his bullpen, which owns a 1.12 ERA, second-best in the Majors. "If we're going to get beat, it seems like the other team's going to have to do it right now. So we have a lot of confidence in those guys."
Run at your own risk: Testing the arm of Yoenis Cespedes didn't turn out to be a wise move for Marlins rookie Braxton Lee. With the Mets up 3-0 and Syndergaard retiring the first six batters he faced, Lee laced a single to left-center. A speedster, Lee charged out of the box and didn't hesitate in trying to stretch the single to a double, but Cespedes made a strong throw to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to get Lee out easily, denying Miami a leadoff runner in scoring position.
"It's a lot of fun watching us play baseball. From the aggressiveness on the basepaths to the timely hitting to the explosive hitting we've got going, the [kidding] in the clubhouse and the dugout, it's just a lot of fun. It's a great team chemistry to be around."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Familia became the first pitcher in franchise history to save five of the Mets' first nine games. His 111 career saves rank third on the Mets' all-time list. (John Franco holds the record with 276).
Syndergaard dealt with blisters on his right index and middle fingers throughout the game, but called them an "irrelevant issue" that he's tackled for most of his career.
"I was actually just more annoyed with my hair flipping in my eyes," Syndergaard said, deflecting the blister issue. "I may have to put it in a bun."
Syndergaard did not say if the discomfort factored into his pitch mix, which featured 44 percent fastballs -- his lowest in a game since April 2016.
"He wasn't just throwing fastballs," Marlins first baseman Justin Bour said. "His breaking ball was at 92-93 [mph]. The fastball seemed to be moving a little bit more today than we've seen in the past."
deGrom should be more comfortable when he returns to the mound Tuesday for a 7:10 p.m. ET game at Marlins Park. deGrom says he had trouble gripping the ball during his first two starts in New York and Washington, where temperatures hovered in the 40s during his outings. But he still managed to go 2-0, allowing one earned run in each start.