CHICAGO -- Hours before this season’s second act began, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen sat in the visitors’ dugout at Marlins Park and dissected all the things that had gone wrong to date. He spoke about slumping Robinson Canó, one of his primary offseason acquisitions. He indicated that the
CHICAGO -- Hours before this season’s second act began, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen sat in the visitors’ dugout at Marlins Park and dissected all the things that had gone wrong to date. He spoke about slumping Robinson Canó, one of his primary offseason acquisitions. He indicated that the Mets would have little choice but to trade Zack Wheeler, an impending free agent. He acknowledged his preseason dare for the rest of the National League East to “come get us.”
“They came and got us,” Van Wagenen said that day in Miami.
Or did they? Since losing that night, the Mets have won 13 of 17 to bull their way back into fringe contention in the NL Wild Card race. In leaning on Wheeler, Luis Avilán and Jeurys Familia to combine on a four-hit, 4-0 shutout of the White Sox on Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field, the Mets completed a series sweep and extended their winning streak to seven.
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For the Mets, the season is not over yet.
Wheeler was the dominant force in Thursday’s finale, striking out six of the first 13 batters he faced and holding the White Sox hitless into the fourth. One of the game’s most obvious trade candidates heading into Wednesday’s Deadline, Wheeler stuck with the Mets in part because of Van Wagenen’s curiosity to see how far this hot streak can go.
Manager Mickey Callaway also stood firm with Cano, who woke up Thursday in a 2-for-30 slump, batting cleanup. The second baseman vindicated that decision with a solo homer in the second inning and an RBI double in the sixth, the latter hit keying a three-run rally.
When the Mets walked off the field, they stood four games out of a Wild Card spot and just two games under .500, their best mark since June 15.
“I feel like we’re kind of flowing,” Callaway said. “We’re obviously still not where we wanted to be at this point, but you can’t worry about what’s happened. All you can do is keep on pushing forward. … If we continue to do that, we do have the personnel that can get to where we ultimately want to go, and that’s get into the playoffs and make a deep run."
Added outfielder Jeff McNeil: “We’re right back in this thing.”
The key has been a turnaround of nearly everything that went wrong for the Mets in the first half. Their rotation, which ranked 15th in the Majors prior to the All-Star break, owns the best mark in MLB since that time. Their bullpen, which was 28th in baseball, is third since midseason. Their offense has been steady, with players such as Cano and J.D. Davis picking up the slack for Pete Alonso, McNeil and other slumping Mets. And their glove work, which created all sorts of issues early in the year, appears much-improved.
Among the defensive contributions Thursday were a difficult catch by McNeil, who leaped into the netting in foul territory down the right-field line, and two strong plays by shortstop Amed Rosario.
“We’re rolling off some games, winning some ballgames,” Wheeler said. “The hitting’s clicking, pitching’s clicking. Guys out on the field today made some amazing plays. Everything’s clicking right now, and we’re just rolling.”
Ask the Mets, and they’ll admit that a playoff run remains relatively unlikely -- they are, as Van Wagenen said this week, still “underdogs.” But that’s starting to change, if only a bit. According to FanGraphs projections, the Mets have more than quintupled their playoff odds since July 21, turning a long shot into a moderate one. And with a soft upcoming schedule, including three this weekend in Pittsburgh and four at home against the last-place Marlins, they insist they’re not done yet.
“Everything’s clicking together -- defense, offense and pitching,” Cano said. “But the great thing about this team is we’ve always been positive. We’ve got a good chemistry here. I would say the difference is when you win, you get to celebrate.”
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.