By Scott Mandel
In this, the Mets’ magical mystery second half tour of the season, even when it rains, really pours, the Mets are winning games. This team seems like a juggernaut now, that even nature can’t stop.
In a rain-shortened game, the Mets finished their sweep of a very solid Cleveland Indians team, riding Noah Syndergaard and the bullpen to a 2-0 win. The game was called in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Mets up at bat, after a second rain delay.
Tonight, both starting pitchers, Aaron Civale and Syndergaard, were mowing down the opposing lineups through the first three innings without allowing a base runner. The way they were throwing, you sensed we were going to have a tight, well-played game by two good teams fighting to make the playoffs.
In the bottom of the fourth, Civale cracked. Joe Panik, proving to be a very good mid-season pickup by the Mets, hit a line drive single to right field. After Pete Alonso flied out, Michael Conforto sent a long fly ball down the left field line that landed just inside the chalk, bouncing into the stands for a ground-rule double.
Wilson Ramos followed with an opposite-field double, a hard-hit line drive down the line. Both Panik and Conforto came in, and Syndergaard had his lead.
Syndergaard retired the first 16 hitters, allowing only two hits over six dominant innings before the heavy storm interrupted him. The Mets starter continued his perfect game mastery until the sixth when, with one out, Tyler Naquin broke up the no-no with a soft-liner to centerfield that fell just short of Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares’ glove, with a short hop scoop.
“You see him good a lot, but tonight was really good,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.
The Citi Field crowd, which is getting used to watching solid baseball, gave Syndergaard a long ovation for his 5 1/3 perfect innings.
After Naquin’s hit, Francisco Lindor lined another single and all of a sudden, Syndergaard had to bare down against Indians leadoff hitter, Greg Allen. On a 3-2 count, Allen slapped a hard grounder to Alonso’s backhand. He dove for it, knocked it down, and threw a bullet to Syndergaard, covering first to nip Allen by a half-step. The best part of the sequence? As Allen was slamming his helmet to the ground, Alonso and Syndergaard were chest bumping each other. It’s not an act you see often on a baseball field but these Mets seem to be enjoying the heck out of being in a race for the post-season.
With the win, the Mets climbed to within 1 1/2 games of the second wild card spot, and within three games of the Nationals for the first wild card (and home field advantage for the “play-in” game).
They certainly are not shrinking from the pressure of these games, this Mets mixture of young and veteran players making up Brodie Van Waggenen’s roster. On the contrary, in fact, as their 26-10 record, best in the game since the All-Star break, would indicate.