MLB

Mets Breathe Deeply Behind Wilson and Alonso Ninth Inning Heroics, Frazier Drives In Three

by Scott Mandel. SportsReporters.com

It’s too bad only 20,843 baseball fans showed up tonight at Citi Field to watch Game #144, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With only 18 games remaining to this season, and the Mets four games out of an attainable playoff berth, you would expect a greater turnout.

But, the half-empty stadium witnessed a thriller of a game, which the Mets won, 3-2 because of Zack Wheeler’s solid seven-inning effort, the ninth inning heroics of the reliever, Justin Wilson and, Pete Alonso’s defense. Yes, that’s right, his defense.

It was the ninth inning. Two outs. The game-tying run stood on third. The go-ahead run stood on second. Wilmer Flores, the longtime Mets infielder who holds the record for most walk-off RBIs at Citi Field in team history stood at the plate, facing Wilson.

“We’ve all seen him do it plenty of times,” Wheeler said. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”

“That was going through my mind. I promise you,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I’ve seen it. He’s done it more than anybody in the history of Citi Field, so it was going through my mind. There was no doubt about it.”

This time, with the game and the Mets season on the line, Flores went down swinging on the final pitch of Wilson’s four-out save, giving the Mets a 3-2 win Tuesday night in Queens.

Callaway was asked after the game about keeping Wilson in the game instead of going to his struggling closer, Edwin Diaz.

“I just had to stick with Wilson. We all know the struggles that Diaz has had and Wilson has been really good. I felt like at that point it was Wilson’s [game],” Callaway said. “He willed it. I’m not saying we’re gonna run from Diaz. He’s gonna get his chances, too … but we called down in the eighth and asked Wilson if he could get four outs for us.

“I thought Wilson was gonna get it done. Some way, somehow.”

With Seth Lugo unavailable after pitching two innings the previous night, Callaway counted on the lefty, Wilson, the only other reliever who has earned his trust. Wilson, who has a 1.54 ERA since the All-Star break, came on to record his first four-out appearance since his only previous save of the season on April 2.

“Late in the season, everything kind of goes. Gotta win games,” Wilson said. “Clearly we’re still in a little bit of a hole. Luckily we have enough games left to make a push. Everyone’s available in any situation.”

Wilson allowed a walk and stolen base to Josh Rojas in the eighth, but kept the Mets in front by retiring Adam Jones. The ninth inning started like so many for the Mets this season.

Nick Ahmed opened with a single up the middle, and Kevin Cron added a one-out hit. With runners at the corners, Ketel Marte nearly hit into a game-ending double play, but after Pete Alonso stepped on first base — following a diving backhand stab — the rookie threw to third base, failing to notice Tim Locastro caught between first and second base.

“Young guy, you don’t know what he’s gonna do, and he kind of spazzed out,” Frazier said. “Could’ve had a double play, but your mind’s going a mile a minute.”

‘“He didn’t have his best stuff. He didn’t have his best command, but he dug deep and got through it,” Callaway said of Wilson. “He’s gonna need a day or two off, but it’s worth it for the win tonight. He was unbelievable. He kind of willed that game, that save.”

The Mets pulled to within three games of the second wild card slot with the Cubs losing in San Diego. Perhaps, Mets fans, a group that is always hoping for a pennant race, will decide to turn out tonight, with Steven Matz going for his 10th win of the season against Arizona lefty, Robbie Ray.

Mets’ Tease of a Season Was Great While It Lasted

By Scott Mandel, SportsReporters.com

This is a baseball obituary we are filing today. Obituaries are usually sad as we say goodbye to those who have left us but also, they can be happy remembrances of what was or used to be.

This will be a happy remembrance of the 2019 New York Mets. Of what was, during a four week stretch when, like our favorite uncle, the Mets made us smile and laugh and cheer with funny quips or jokes. And, we looked forward to more of the same.

Mets Success was short-lived

The Mets weren’t funny or a joke, but, like Uncle Joe, they teased and tickled us till we cried uncle. Yet, we wanted more teasing and tickling because it was fun. We knew, eventually, Uncle Joe would be putting on his coat and going back to wherever he lived, but, we enjoyed our five minutes of sheer fun with him.

That was the 2019 New York Mets. Uncle Joe.

Last night’s loss to the Chicago Cubs, their third in a row at Citi Field to the one team they could least afford to lose to, was not quite the final nail in the coffin. But, together with the previous three-game sweep they suffered at the hands of their division rivals Atlanta Braves, this current six-game home losing streak has brought Uncle, er, the Mets to the precipice of it being time to put on their coats and go home.

The next time we’ll get to see our teasing, funny Uncle Joe will be in November, at family Thanksgiving. The next time we see the Mets, with that fun-loving, teasing look in their eye will be two months after Thanksgiving, in the spring of 2020 down in Florida. We hope everyone shows up at our next family gathering in the sun but there always seems to be a missing cousin or aunt, or, even a third baseman, a pitcher, or, a manager from the gang. And, though we always miss them, we realize we must move on.

Change is inevitable, within fun-loving, teasing families and also within ballclubs. Someone always moves far away and just can’t get back for our traditional family events we so look forward to every winter.

Related image
Joe Maddon is in final year of contract with the Cubs. Rumors are flying he will be fired if they don’t make deep playoff run

Potential New Additions to 2020

Who knows? Maybe, this winter, we will meet new friends and family. In the case of the teasing Mets, we may even rediscover new members with names like Cespedes, or Jed Lawrie, or Joe Girardi or even Joe Madden (if Girardi decides he can’t afford the trip down to Florida). In the case of the two Joes, we’ll really have an Uncle Joe to hang out with, won’t we?

Invariably, at the tail end of our northern winter season, Mother Nature can be just like the Mets and Uncle Joe, teasing us when she dumps another foot of snow on our cities in February or March. And, like the Mets 2019 season, all we can say is, “would you look at that, another tease.”

Teasing seems to be a repetitive fact of life as well as in sports.

RIP, 2019 New York Mets.

Mets Needed Thor to Come Up Big, Now Tonight is a Must-Win Game

By Scott Mandel – SportsReporters.com

Mets’ Noah Syndergaard on nightmarish start: ‘When you get your s— kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective’

Noah reflects on bad start00:01:40Noah Syndergaard reflected on the 10-7 loss and said he let the team down and got his “S— kicked in”.

The Mets needed Noah Syndergaard at his best on Wednesday in a crucial game against the Cubs, but the right-hander’s outing was nothing but disastrous. 

Syndergaard, who had dazzled in his eight second half starts, was the victim of some poor defense and poor luck in the Cubs’ six-run first, but he also left hittable pitches in the zone. 

Jason Heyward went down swinging to start the inning, but things quickly went downhill from there. After Nicholas Castellanos was hit by a pitch and Kris Bryantsingled, Javier Baez grounded a slow-roller to short that Amed Rosario underhanded into shallow center field, allowing the first run to score.

Then, after a Kyle Schwarber RBI double, Addison Russell blooped a perfectly placed single into right, scoring two more. Ian Happ then provided the final two runs of the inning with an opposite-field two run homer.

Things didn’t get any better for Syndergaard in the second. Bryant lifted what should have been an easy out to shallow left, but miscommunication between Rosario and J.D. Davis allowed the ball to drop in for a double.

Two batters later, Schwarber slammed the Cubs’ second home run of the night, extending the Cubs’ lead to 8-1.

Through the first two innings, Syndergaard allowed eight runs (seven earned), on seven hits. He walked three and struck out two.

“They capitalized on every mistake that I made, and it just seemed like tonight when it rains it pours,” Syndergaard said after the game. “When you get your sh-t kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective on things. Definitely a terrible feeling. I’m disappointed in myself. I had the opportunity to go out there and do something big tonight, and I let the team down.”

Mickey Callaway stuck with Syndergaard in the third, but with two away, Castellanos blasted the Cubs’ third home run, ballooning the lead to 10-1. The Mets did battle back to make things interesting, but they ultimately lost the game 10-7, dropping further back in the Wild Card race.

“Obviously a few plays weren’t made,” said Callaway afterwards. “He battled, left some pitches middle, they made him pay. They didn’t miss the ones that were big mistakes. Some of the credit has to go to their offense. It’s still hard to hit even when a Noah Syndergaard makes mistakes. But he just couldn’t get into rhythm. Off night for him. He’s been pitching so well, and we know that our rotation is one of our strengths. Just an off night for one of our starters.”

Syndergaard’s night ended after three innings, allowing a career-worst 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits. It was the first time in his career that he allowed three home runs in a start. 

Mets Lose to Braves As Alonso Ties Franchise Homer Record

By Scott Mandel

When Pete Alonso, the Mets precocious rookie first baseman drove the Atlanta Braves’ starter, Max Fried’s fastball 451 feet into the deepest part of center-field, it put the Mets ahead, 5-4 after having trailed the entire game.

One sensed the momentum change, replete with awakening a quiet home crowd into delirium, would take the Mets to a win over their division rivals. Alas, it didn’t happen for the home town team as the Braves, clearly a better team, took the lead back and went on to beat the Mets, 9-5.

The one positive from the loss was Alonso, who continues to be an offensive force in the National League in his maiden season.

The bomb he hit to the center field black in the fifth inning was his 41st home run of the year to tie the Mets’ franchise home run record. Alonso now shares that record with Carlos Beltran (2006) and Todd Hundley (1996). His next homer will give him sole possession of the franchise home run record.

“As soon as the ball left the bat, I knew it,” Alonso said. “The fans went absolutely nuts. It’s something you dream about as a kid. It was surreal. It was a hell of an environment tonight. That moment was incredibly special.”

The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder tipped his cap to the Citi Field crowd on his way as he took first base in the top of the sixth inning. The nearly packed house (38,300) gave him a loud, long standing ovation.

“I don’t get chills much, but that gave me the chills a little bit,” Zack Wheeler said, who gave up five runs (four earned) over six innings Saturday. “The atmosphere, the timing of the home run and how big it was. That guy is special. Hopefully it can continue. We’re riding him right now.”

The rest of the Mets’ lineup was ineffectual during a critical game. The offense struggled to string together runs in every inning besides the fifth, when Juan Lagares sparked a four-run rally with his second double of the night and Alonso cashed in three runs with his historic homer.

The Braves immediately answered the Mets and tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the sixth by taking advantage of Todd Frazier’s fielding error at third base. The Mets had their best chance to reclaim the lead when Jeff McNeil, hitting for the first time since his 10-day IL-stint, led off the seventh inning with a double to right field.

This was Zack Wheeler’s third straight poor outing but it wasn’t all his fault. There was also poor baserunning and bad defense, and, of course, more long balls given up by the Mets most important off-season acquisition, closer, Edwin Diaz.

Diaz’s nightmare season continued when he gave up a solo homer to Freddie Freeman and left the game two batters later after being seen on the mound by the trainer. The problem, not yet officially reported, appeared to be with pain in his trapezius area, aka the “trap.”

Wheeler, who said he intended to make some adjustments after a pair of bad outings, didn’t show much improvement.

He struggled with the strike zone, allowing four earned runs by the end of the third inning and couldn’t quite find a rhythm throughout his six innings on the mound.

He ended up with a no-decision, but gave up five hits — two of them homers — and four walks.

“Out of the stretch I was a little off today, but nothing really changed from the bullpen to the game,” Wheeler said. “Just trying to throw more four-seams, arm-side, and that just wasn’t there in the first few innings, so I kind of said screw it and started throwing two-seam, because I knew it was going to be there.

“Fell behind a lot of guys, a lot of deep counts and kind of setting guys up for a fastball. I just need to do a better job getting ahead of guys, makes it a lot easier and I’ve had my success when I do get ahead of guys. I think that’s one of the bigger things, I just need to pound the zone and just go after guys.”

The right-hander has now followed up the two gems he tossed in his first games after the trade deadline passed and he stayed in Queens, with three clunkers at the most important juncture of the season.

“He battled,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The state of our bullpen tonight, he had to get to his pitch count. He did that and got through six. It wasn’t his best outing, the two walks in the second inning probably were the thing that hurt him the most, but he continued to battle.

“He’s been better, he’s been worse, but he battled for us.”

Diaz was removed from game after giving up home run

It makes one wonder if a pitcher with Wheeler’s arsenal and velocity is feeling the pressure of the moment, in this, a playoff push in the biggest city. This place is the greatest city to play in if you rise to the occasion but, if you cannot overcome the pressure of a pennant race, the fans in New York are relentless in their criticism and open derision.

Wheeler, the native of Smyrna, Georgia, will have to possibly adjust more than his delivery and pitching style if he is to be counted on down the stretch.

Chest Bumping Mets Sweep Indians, Now Within 1 1/2 of Wild Card

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.

by Scott Mandel

The Mets are for real.

The naysayers were saying a couple of weeks ago, when the Mets were on their hot streak after the All-Star break that this team would come back to earth when the schedule became “challenging,” The naysayers said the Mets are cleaning up against the dregs of the National League but wait till they have to play the Braves in Atlanta, and the Indians.

Last night at Citi Field, the Mets, who are 25-10 since the All-Star game was played, faced a Cleveland team that has been streaking up the American League Central division, to within two games of the Minnesota Twins. They are also managed by Terry Francona, considered by many to be the best in the game at his job. Francona’s teams are always prepared and play to their talent level, often times, above it.

“It’s August, but playoffs started today,” J.D. Davis said after the Mets started a critical nine-game homestand in style with a 9-2 win over the Indians on Tuesday at Citi Field.

But, last night, it was the Mets, considered sellers just a month ago as their season had spiraled out of control as they fell 11 games out of a wild card playoff slot, dominated the Francona-led Indians in ways they are not used to being dominated.

In front of a wildly excited home crowd, Davis and Michael Conforto hit home runs, Steven Matz spun another solid start into the seventh inning giving up just three hits to a potent lineup, and Joe Panic and Todd Frazier chipped in as the veteran role players they are to lead the Mets to a 9-2 win, beating Indians ace, Shane Bieber.

The Mets are playing the game on all cylinders, right now, with their entire roster contributing to this playoff push.

“To beat Shane Bieber in the first game to start off this homestand, to energize the fans, put ourselves in a good position to win a series against these guys is what we set out to do today,” Conforto said.

“They’re relentless,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said, referring to the Mets hitters. “Timely hitting, a key big hit usually starts it — Conforto’s homer — and then you get to their lesser pitchers and you add on. That’s what good teams do.”

Matz continued his metamorphosis since he was banished to the bullpen in June for 10 days. He’s been a different pitcher. In 16 starts, he had a 4.95 ERA and was 5-6 before his temporary stint in the bullpen. In his last seven starts, he has a 2.81 ERA and a 3-1 record. Not bad for a fifth starter.

“You just learn from your mistakes early on,” Matz said. “It’s not anything crazy. Instead of trying to feel for what I have out there, it’s being a little more aggressive in the first inning, and that’s helped.”

The Mets moved to a season-high five games over .500, at 65-60, and closed to within two games of the Chicago Cubs for the second wild card position. They remain three games behind the Nationals for the first wild card.

The season schedule favors the Mets in a big way. Of their remaining 37 games, 25 are home games. The Mets, with the second best home record in baseball at 35-21, have more home games remaining than any other team in the sport. They like their chances to use these games to make the post-season.

“We have to have that playoff mentality, that playoff atmosphere that every game counts,” J.D. Davis said. “Especially [with] the hole that we dug ourselves into. I think the elephant in the room is we got a lot of home games, but a lot of games against playoff teams. This is our playoff time. We have to play well and we have to come out ready to play.”

Say it, Mets fans. Your team is officially in a pennant race, with 37 games left to the season. Who woulda thunk it, just a month ago?

Mets Win 14th of Last 15 Games in Another Come-from-Behind Win Over Nationals

By Scott Mandel

There is always an unsung player who shows up big in baseball pennant races or post-season games. The guy you least expect to play the hero on the biggest stages of the sport.

Luis Guillorme? New York Mets reserve infielder has now taken his place alongside such previous luminaries as Al Weis of the 1969 Mets, Brian Doyle of the 1977 Yankees and Gene Larkin of the 1991 Minnesota Twins. All of whom came up big when nobody in the ballpark had a right to expect that from them.

Guillorme picked a perfect time for his first big league homer — a tying shot leading off the eighth — J.D. Davis added a go-ahead sacrifice fly and the Mets worked their magic again, beating the Washington Nationals, 4-3, Saturday night at Citi Field for their eighth straight victory.

The Mets have won 15 of 16 and are on their best roll since a 16-1 run in 1990. They pulled within a half-game of Washington for the first National League wild card and will try for a three-game sweep Sunday.

Juan Soto put Washington ahead, 3-2, with his second home run of the game in the eighth inning, but Guillorme, a backup infielder, countered against Fernando Rodney with his first connection in the bottom of the inning. Guillorme entered with a .192 average in 56 major league games.

After two more Mets reached against Rodney (0-5), Daniel Hudson relieved. He got one out, intentionally walked slugger Pete Alonso, and then Davis hit a drive to deep right field that brought in newcomer Joe Panik for the tiebreaking run.

Wilson Ramos, celebrating his 32nd birthday, hit a two-out drive to right-center, but Victor Robles made a leaping catch against the wall to end the inning.

It was the second consecutive blown save for Washington’s bullpen. On Friday night, Sean Doolittle allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss.

Soto hit a two-run drive in the first inning against Noah Syndergaard, and the 2-0 lead held until Davis and Ramos put fervor into Flushing with consecutive solo shots off Patrick Corbin in the fourth.

Soto struck again in the eighth against Seth Lugo (5-2), ending the reliever’s string of 14 consecutive scoreless appearances. Lugo got two outs to tie the Mets record with 26 consecutive batters retired before Soto hit a no-doubter to right field.

Soto has 24 homers this season, and the 20-year-old already has four career multihomer games.

Lugo also pitched the ninth as All-Star closer Edwin Díaz warmed in the bullpen.

With the Mets making an improbable charge for a playoff spot, fans lined up outside Citi Field five hours before the first pitch and many stood and clapped for lineup introductions as if it were opening day. Soto’s first-inning drive quickly quieted things down.

Davis and Ramos brought fans back to their feet in the fourth. Davis has four homers in his past seven games, and five of his 14 connections this season have been against the Nationals.

The Mets have hit multiple homers in eight consecutive games, breaking a franchise record set this June. Corbin had allowed just two homers over his previous eight starts combined, and he had given up 0.79 homers per nine innings since the start of 2018, trailing only Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom among major league starters.

Syndergaard, pitching to Ramos for the first time since June 15, threw seven innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts and seven hits allowed. He faced one over the minimum in his final four innings, and he completed seven for the sixth straight outing.

Amazin’ Mets Walk Off in Ninth Against Nats, Move into Playoff Position

Conforto with clutch hit wins it for the Amazin’s

By Scott Mandel

They’ve done it again. The New York Mets continued their magic carpet ride in this very strange baseball season by coming from behind tonight with four runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat their division rival Washington Nationals, 7-6.

Michael Conforto, whom the Mets have been waiting for most of this season if not his career to break out into the star they’ve expected, continued his recent hot streak when he turned on left-handed pitcher, Sean Gilmartin’s inside fastball and rocketed a line drive over the head of National’s right fielder, Adam Eaton. With that, Juan Legares walked in from third base as the Mets were winners for the 14th time in their last 15 games and upped their record since the All-Star break to 20-6.

This was after Todd Frazier, another player who was ticketed to be traded or released just a few weeks ago, tied the game with a three-run homer in that same ninth inning, leading to pandemonium at Citi Field.

The Mets are now a half game out of the playoff hunt. Two weeks ago, they were 11 games out, and left for dead.

Marcus Stroman, recently acquired from Toronto, made his first home start as a Met. It was an appearance he will not forget. Citi Field was literally shaking last night with a deliriously sold-out crowd on their feet for most of that last inning. Stroman, who reportedly was highly disappointed when he was not traded to the Yankees, may be changing his tune.

“It was amazing. That crowd brought it,” Stroman said. “I’m extremely grateful to have their presence there, their energy. I don’t think they realize how much we feed off of that, and how much that gets us going and allows us to elevate our game when we need to.”

Normally a guy who gets a lot of ground balls and not an elite strikeout pitcher, Stroman punched out seven of his first nine Nats’ batters. The Long Island native ended up, in front of one of the loudest Citi Field crowds in recent history, soaking in the playoff-type atmosphere of his hometown city.

“I can’t put it into words. I want to pitch [in] every single game like that,” Stroman said. “It felt, honestly, like a playoff atmosphere, like that [World Baseball Classic] atmosphere that I had, from the second I walked out there. The entire crowd was going crazy. I love energy. I love that. Keep bringing that energy New York. We’re gonna feed off of that.”

With friends and family watching from the crowd, Stroman opened looking like the ace who made his first All-Star team this season, matching Washington’s ace, Stephen Strasburg zero for zero.

“I’m just happy to be here. And it’s a great vibe that we have on this team.”

Another guy happy Stroman is here is his new manager, Mickey Callaway.

“He battles. There’s no doubt about it. This kid is gonna battle and you’re gonna have to beat him. That’s what you want out of every guy on your team,” Callaway said. “There is no doubt that Marcus Stroman has that type of personality.”

“His slider was really working. And, he was really feeding off of this crowd,” Callaway added.

After last night’s walk-off hero, Conforto, ended things with his base hit, his Mets teammates stormed out of the dugout to surround him. Pete Alonzo, a very strong man, ripped Conforto’s jersey right off his back during the celebratory scrum at second base.

“Today was probably the most fun I’ve had up here in the big leagues,” Conforto said. “It was special. The stadium was packed. It felt like the playoffs.”

“When guys’ shirts come off after the game, I’d say it’s probably been a very good day,” said Callaway.

Indeed, Mickey. It was a very good day for the Mets.

Mets Win Again Over Lowly Marlins, Pennant Race Begins This Friday at Citi Field vs. Nationals

by Scott Mandel

This is what a pennant race in New York City is supposed to feel like.

The New York Mets, left for dead just one month ago, with a manager barely clinging to his job and a new general manager under fire for a series of moves that mostly failed, are the hottest team in the sport since the All-Star break.

Today, in a matinee game at Citi Field, they won their 13th game out of their last 14, moved their record to 19-8 since the All-Star break and have moved firmly into the wild card race in the National League after sweeping the hapless Miami Marlins, including today’s 7-2 win behind Steven Matz. The Mets are now one game behind for the second wild card position, behind the Washington Nationals, who visit Citi Field this Friday.

The Mets, dead as a door nail in early July, are now firmly in the National League playoff hunt, just 30 days later. Old Mets fans may have to dig up that relic of a team moniker from 1962, the Amazin’ Mets, to describe what this 2019 team is now doing.

The metamorphosis in the Mets pitching staff continued today, as Steven Matz pitched into the seventh inning, continuing a pattern Mets manager Mickey Callaway has set for his starters.

Today, in a 12:10 matinee, Matz, the 27-year old lefty who has averaged 5 innings per start over the course of his career, was bound and determined to match his compadres by pitching more efficiently and later into games. Mission accomplished.

Despite the oppressive humidity, Matz came within one out of completing that objective as the Mets won their fifth game in a row and their 13th out of their last 14 games.

Matz gave up a run in the second and escaped further damage that inning due to some brutal base running by the Marlins, as both Lewis Brinson and Starlin Castro were thrown out on the basepaths. He also allowed a solo shot to Brian Anderson in the sixth, but manager Mickey Callaway praised Matz’s ability to slow down on the mound, which he has struggled with at times.

“We’ve talked about this a lot the past couple years,’’ the manager said. “He continued to understand he needs to focus on the next pitch and tonight in particular, I think he did a good job of stepping back.”

“It was definitely a conscious effort,’’ Matz said of taking an occasional breather. “The heat and humidity worked in my favor because I couldn’t rush. … Throughout the whole game, I was mindful of working quick, but also taking a second every once in a while.”

Matz wasn’t the only big contributor to today’s festivities, which was merely a prelude to the biggest month of games this franchise will be playing since their 2015 World Series season.

Michael Conforto, whom the Mets and their fans have seemingly been waiting for five years to turn into Stan Musial (Google him, young ones), hit his 24th and 25th homers of the season to lead the offensive assault against the Marlin’s helpless pitching staff. He’s been a streaky hitter throughout his still-young career, struggling to find consistency. He figures he’s picked a good time to heat up.

Pete Alonzo is coming out of his post-All-Star event funk, hitting his 37th homer in the first inning, a two-run job. He has now hit the fifth most homers in a season in franchise history, four behind Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley, who hit 41 in 2006 and 1996, respectively. With 47 games remaining, it seems a cinch the rookie first baseman will fly past that record.

But, as is usually the case in baseball, pitching will get a team to the promised land of the post-season. Mets starters have dominated since the All-Star break, pitching to a 2.92 ERA and averaging 6.2 innings per outing, the best in the game. They are feeding off of one another.

The season takes a serious turn, now. The Mets may be 13-1 in their last 14 games, may be just 1 1/2 games out of a playoff position, and may have the best starting pitching in the sport but now, it’s time to play the big boys. Washington is up, next, on Friday, with ace Stephen Strasburg looking to set a tone for the Nationals against these upstarts from New York.

This is what a pennant race feels like.

Mets’ Matz Pitches First Complete Game Shutout of his Career, Five-hits Pirates

by Scott Mandel

Go ahead, Mets fans. You can dream a little more after tonight’s gem thrown by current number four pitcher in the Mets rotation, Steven Matz, as he pitched the first complete game shutout of his career, beating the Pirates on a masterful five-hitter, 3-0.

Matz may soon become the number two starter, behind Jacob deGrom if the Mets follow through on the rumors flying around this team they will soon be trading Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler by Wednesday’s trade deadline.

But, keep dreaming. Your Mets have now won nine of their last 13 games and four in a row. Their record is 49-55, just six games below .500, aka, mediocrity. They have passed two teams in the wild card race, with just four teams ahead of them. They are six games behind that last wild card slot and, as you may recall, that is not a number that cannot be overcome.

The Mets are viewed, especially by some in the media, as sellers instead of buyers as the trade deadline approaches but, the achilles heel of this team, its pitching, has righted itself since the All-Star break. In the 13 games since then, the Mets own the best E.R.A. in baseball, at 2.62. The bullpen, since 82-year old Phil Regan became the new pitching coach, has become nearly lockdown, with the exception of Jeurys Familia, who remains an important work in progress. All this has led to a 9-4 record, since the mid-summer break.

Mets manager, Mickey Callaway, doesn’t think they’re out of the race to the post-season yet, nor should he.

“I think we can get on a run, here,” said Callaway. “We’re pitching and we’re hitting and we are playing good baseball. Let’s just keep playing and see where it ends up. I like this team when it’s playing on all cylinders, as we imagined it in spring training.”

Matz pitched the most efficient game of his career, staying away from the full counts that have plagued him since he reached the majors. He finished off the Pirates in just 99 pitches.

“He was executing all four of his pitches,” Callaway said. “I thought his cutter/slider was the best I’ve ever seen. He was just tremendous in every way.”

After the game, Matz looked more relieved than usual.

“This is what I try to do every game,” Matz said of his first complete-game shutout as a pro, “so it was good to finally do it.”

Matz was backed by home runs from Michael Conforto, his 19th, and J.D. Davis, starting in left field with Dom Smith placed on the injured list with a foot issue.

Conforto blasted a homer into the second deck in right field

Matz also introduced a new pitch in his arsenal – a slow curve ball. His velocity on the pitch ranged from 78 to 82, and kept Pirates hitters off-balance. Perhaps, another influence of Phil Regan, or even Jason Vargas, today’s pitcher, who has mastered the technique of slow curve balls.

If Matz does move up to the number two slot in the Mets rotation, it will mean two things. The Mets have given up on the season, having traded their present pitching assets for futures. Or, that Matz has finally put together all of his potential and is realizing his talent.

Does it all change the front office’s thoughts about trades? That remains to be seen but, with this team finally playing in-synch with its talent, keep dreaming, Mets fans.