CHICAGO -- So that’s what it’s supposed to look like.
After two days of struggling through the late spring Chicago chill, the Mets appeared to be a different team on Thursday night in a 10-1 blowout of the Cubs. They recorded 15 hits, their second-highest total of the season (and their highest in nearly a full calendar month). They received strong pitching, most notably from Carlos Carrasco. And they combined it all to salvage their final game at Wrigley Field after losing two in a row.
“Everything’s coming together,” Carrasco said.
Although Carrasco was referring to his own success on the mound, he may as well have been talking about the entire team. It was that kind of performance, that kind of night.
Throughout it, three factors stood a bit larger than the rest:
Those concerned about Carrasco’s form received a fair bit of relief on Thursday, as Carrasco didn’t just give the Mets his best start of the season, he delivered arguably his finest outing since last July. It had been that long since Carrasco allowed one run or fewer while also pitching into the seventh inning. Afterward, Carrasco admitted that he hadn’t previously felt this good at any point this year.
Of particular note was Carrasco’s split changeup, which generated five of his nine whiffs on the night. Pitching with a bone spur in his right elbow that doesn’t currently cause him discomfort, Carrasco isn’t likely to reclaim his old mid-90s velocity anytime soon. But if he can effectively play his split-change off a low-90s fastball, while also mixing in two different breaking pitches, there’s reason to believe the 36-year-old can still thrive.
“When I have that kind of changeup, I don’t want to stop throwing it,” Carrasco said. “I can get a lot of ground balls.”
Behind Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the Mets don’t have a consistent third option in their rotation. If Carrasco can become that sort of pitcher again, the team’s pitching situation will look markedly different.
“We all know what he could mean to us,” said manager Buck Showalter.
Casual polar power
With the game mostly in hand in the seventh inning, Pete Alonso attacked a Michael Rucker cut fastball on the outer edge of the strike zone, hit it hard, then watched the wind help carry it 372 feet over the right-field fence. In so doing, Alonso joined Dansby Swanson as the only right-handed hitters to go deep to that part of Wrigley Field this season.
It was casual power for Alonso, the sort the Mets have become accustomed to seeing from him. It was also another indication that Alonso truly could challenge the hallowed 60-homer plateau. He’s currently on pace for exactly 60.
Through two months of the season, the numbers and factoids regarding Alonso have become something to behold. For example, he’s one of only nine players to hit at least 165 homers over his first five seasons, joining such luminaries as Ralph Kiner, Albert Pujols, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.
Alonso leads the Majors in homers and the National League in RBIs. He and Jeff McNeil even executed a successful double steal in the fifth inning Thursday, increasing Alonso’s career success rate to 91.2 percent. Oh, and he’s committed only one error at first base all season.
“We don’t talk about it a whole lot, intentionally,” Showalter said. “Everybody does their projections and everything of the way things could turn out, but he’s just playing with great effort, too.”
Outside of Alonso, New York’s offense isn’t built to hit homers as consistently as most other contenders. The Mets remain about league average in the power department, as they were last season. So it was encouraging for Showalter to see the offense string together multihit rallies in the third and eighth innings.
“It’s just a reminder of what we’re capable of and what we need to do,” Showalter said.
Of particular note were multihit games from McNeil, Francisco Alvarez, Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte -- the latter two of whom appear to be emerging from recent slumps.
“That’s when we’re at our best -- we’re taking good ABs, we’re getting on base, we’re putting pressure on the defense,” McNeil said. “It leads to some runs.”