Red-hot Mets go over .500 on Alonso's 35th HR

August 6th, 2019

NEW YORK -- ambled toward the lip of the Mets’ dugout, where a microphone awaited him. Alonso had just nestled the final out of the Mets’ 5-4 win over the Marlins in his glove, securing a doubleheader sweep and ensuring that New York, for the first time since May 2, would end the night above .500. He was asked about the Citi Field crowd, which had buzzed all evening.

Before he answered, Alonso looked up, gazed around him and raised his fist into the air, triumphant.

The Mets, now 57-56 and 2 1/2 games back in the National League Wild Card race despite falling a season-high 11 games under .500 barely three weeks ago, suddenly have a chance to make something out of a season once feared lost. Many unaffiliated with the team have been slow to trust, calling this 17-5 run a product of a soft schedule, an unsustainable mirage. And perhaps it is.

The Mets just know they weren’t going to achieve anything without reaching .500 first.

“Getting to this point has been really tough,” Alonso said. “But now, anything can happen.”

Consider the types of things that happened in the seventh inning of Game 2, for example. Trailing by two runs, the Mets received a jolt when J.D. Davis, who has filled in admirably for injured left fielder Dominic Smith, homered to cut Miami’s margin in half. An announced crowd of 29,645 stirred.

Three batters later, Michael Conforto clobbered a game-tying home run 440 feet to right field, sending it flying toward the upper rows of Citi Field’s second seating deck. Next came Alonso, who lined a more modest, but equally impactful, homer over the fence in left. Upon returning to the dugout, Alonso heard enough fans chanting his name that he reemerged for a brief curtain call.

“People are still showing rabid support, and I love that,” Alonso said. “That’s one of the best things about the big leagues, is playing in front of the thousands of people in the seats every night. We want to put on a big show, and we want to win for them. We want to do something special.”

What the Mets have done since the All-Star break probably qualifies. After receiving seven strong innings from Jacob deGrom in Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader and a good-enough spot start from Walker Lockett in Game 2, the Mets maintained MLB's second best second-half rotation ERA with a 2.76 mark. Their bullpen, which ranked 28th in the Majors before the break, is fourth in that span, thanks in large part to Seth Lugo, who fired two perfect innings for the Game 2 save.

Prefer offense? Start with Conforto, who finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs in Game 2, increasing his second-half OPS to .965. Move from there to Jeff McNeil, who became the fastest Met in history to record 200 hits (599 at-bats); or to Davis, who has apparently solved the Citi Field riddle with a 1.152 OPS at home; or to Amed Rosario, the only Met with a better average than Davis since the All-Star break.

“Really now, we’re just playing complete baseball,” Conforto said.

“Earlier in the year, we kind of dug ourselves a hole,” Alonso said. “But we’re still clawing. Our work’s not done.”

Like most, Conforto and Alonso understand the Mets are doing it largely against sub-.500 -- and in the Marlins’ case, not-even-close-to-.500 -- teams. A stiffer test will come this weekend, when the Mets welcome the Nationals to Queens for three games before flying to Atlanta for another three against the first-place Braves. That stretch carries the potential either to extinguish this hot streak or baptize it as legitimate.

The Mets know that, embrace it and eagerly await it. In the interim, two games remain against the last-place Marlins. All the Mets can do is keep winning and see what happens.

“We understand the road is going to get tough,” Conforto said. “But we’re going to ride this wave. We’re going to continue to do all the things that have put us on this hot streak, and just understand that … there’s no reason that we can’t compete.”