Mets

Mets Introduce New Manager, Luis Rojas After Beltran Fiasco

By Scott Mandel

The New York Mets today introduced their second manager of this off-season, Luis Rojas, at an afternoon press conference at Citi Field.

Rojas, the 38-year old son of former major league great, Felipe Alou, has been a member of the Mets organization since 2006, when the Mets signed him to a players’ contract in his native country, the Dominican Republic.

After 13 years in the organization, mostly working in the minor leagues, Luis Rojas realized a dream Friday, when he became the 23rd manager in Mets history — amid unusual circumstances.

“I feel like the most lucky person in the world right now as the manager of the New York Mets,” Rojas said at Citi Field, where the team announced a managerial hiring for the second time this offseason.

Rojas received a two-year contract to replace Carlos Beltran, who departed after only 77 days on the job in the fallout from the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme in 2017. Beltran, a player for that Houston team, was named in an MLB report that outlined the Astros’ use of electronic surveillance to steal catchers’ signs.

Rojas served as the Mets’ quality control coach last season and received multiple interviews for the managerial position following Mickey Callaway’s firing in October. That search yielded Beltran and also included names such as Eduardo Perez, Derek Shelton and Tim Bogar as candidates.

“I felt prepared then and I feel prepared now and I feel pretty good with what we have,” Rojas said. “We have a good team and we have a great staff. The staff is going to help me and we have already collaborated and we’re looking forward to break ground in spring training.

“I will lead this team into success.”

Rojas, whose father, Felipe Alou, managed the Expos and Giants and whose brother, Moises Alou, was an All-Star outfielder, was joined at the news conference by his wife Laura and son Louie, in addition to his mother and two of his brothers. Neither Felipe Alou nor Moises Alou was present.

In introducing the new manager, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen focused on Rojas’ consistency as a person and professional.

“Last Thursday was a tough day,” Van Wagenen said, referring to the announcement Beltran had parted ways with the Mets. “We had a number of difficult days leading into Thursday’s decision and ultimately the parting of the ways with Carlos, but this is a very good feeling today and we’re excited about that. It’s an unfortunate circumstance for baseball, but today is a good opportunity and it’s an exciting time for the Mets as we continue to charge forward.”

Though managing experience wasn’t a prerequisite when Beltran got hired, Van Wagenen pointed to Rojas’ eight seasons as manager in the minor leagues at various levels for the Mets as a positive.

“In-game decision-making is an important part of the job and when you assess people’s strengths and weaknesses, no two candidates are the same,” Van Wagenen said. “And Carlos had different traits than what Luis has, but in [Rojas’] experience and actually calling the shots and running the game and running the base running, controlling the offense and having to make decisions about which pitchers get warmed up and which pitchers come into the game, I think all of those assets will be evident for us this year.”

Rojas takes over a team expected to compete for the NL East title, led by a potentially dominant starting rotation and last season’s major league home run leader, Pete Alonso. Rojas indicated he already has spoken with Jeff McNeil, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, among others.

“It’s according to the team that you have,” Rojas said. “You have a team that can run, you run. You have a team that plays that way, you play that way, so it’s according to what we have. We have a really good roster, we have really good starting pitching, we have a really good bullpen and we can score some runs, so I feel pretty good about it right now.”

Rojas was hired as a coach at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic in 2006 and later managed in Rookie-ball, Low-A, High-A and Double-A for the Mets before becoming the quality control coach under Callaway last season. As quality control coach, Rojas brought analytical information to the players and field staff. Rojas said his loyalty to the Mets was born when he first started working for the organization.

“When I saw that the Mets were not only developing baseball players, but they were developing men, that right away we had an educational program, back then it was a complex with two fields and we got the job done,” Rojas said of his arrival at the Dominican academy in 2006. “We moved into a bigger complex afterwards and just the love for the organization started growing and then it just kept growing and growing as I went along.”

Mets’ Pete Alonso Named National League Rookie of the Year

by Scott Mandel

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso tonight was named the 2019 National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

Alonso received 29 of 30 first-place votes and garnered 148 of a possible 150 voting points. He is the second Mets position player (also, Darryl Strawberry in 1983) and sixth player in club history overall to win the award. Four Mets pitchers have also been named Rookie of the Year: Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Jacob deGrom (2014).

The 24-year-old put together one of the greatest offensive seasons ever by a rookie, setting numerous Mets and major league records. Most notably, he became the first Met and first rookie to lead the majors outright in home runs, swatting a major league rookie-record 53 blasts.

“I am so grateful to the Baseball Writers’ Association for their recognition,” Alonso said. “I’m truly blessed and humbled to be part of a group of some of the best to ever play the game. This season was the most special time I’ve ever had on a baseball field. I’m extremely thankful to the Mets for allowing me the opportunity to prove myself at the major league level this year. I can’t wait to get back to work in the spring and make a push for the postseason in 2020.”

Alonso was a three-time NL Rookie of the Month honoree, taking home the award in April, June and September. The only other players to win three NL Rookie of the Month awards are Jason Bay (2004) and Juan Soto (2018).

In addition to setting Mets club marks for home runs, extra-base hits (85) and total bases (348) in his first major league season, Alonso also established club rookie records for hits (155), RBI (120), runs scored (103), at-bats (597), plate appearances (693), games played (161), slugging percentage (.583), OBP (.358) and OPS (.941). He tied the club rookie record with 72 walks.

“Pete’s historic rookie season created great memories and thrilled Mets fans all year,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. “We are very proud of how he represents our fans, teammates and the organization on and off the field with his energy, enthusiasm and passion.”

Alonso became the first rookie position player in Mets history to be named to the NL All-Star team. He was the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby outright as well, defeating fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final round. In the Midsummer Classic, he went 1-2 with a two-run single and a stolen base, making him the first rookie with multiple RBI in an All-Star Game.

“Pete was a joy to watch all season long for our passionate fans as well as all of us in the organization,” Mets Executive Vice President and General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “We’re so proud to see his on-field results match his tireless work ethic.”

Alonso led the NL in extra-base hits, was second in total bases, third in RBI, sixth in slugging and seventh in OPS. He led all qualified rookies in games played, hits, home runs, RBI, OPS, extra-base hits, runs scored, walks, total bases and slugging percentage.

Alonso will receive the award during the 97th Annual New York Baseball Writers’ Dinner on January 25, 2020 at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel.

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BREAKING NEWS: Mets Fire Mickey Callaway Despite 86-76 Record

By Scott Mandel

FLUSHING, N.Y., October 3, 2019 – The New York Mets today announced that they have relieved Manager Mickey Callaway of his duties, effective immediately.

“We want to thank Mickey for his consistent work ethic and dedication over the last two seasons and I’m certain these characteristics will serve him well in his next opportunity,” Mets Executive Vice President & General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “A decision like this is never easy, however, we believe it is in the best interest of the franchise at this time.”

Callaway posted a 163-161 (.503) record during his two seasons with the Mets. Callaway was named the Mets 21st manager in club history on October 23, 2017.

Dodgers Blow Out Mets Behind Kershaw, Syndergaard Lasts Five Innings

By Scott Mandel

This was going to be the beginning of the Mets’ stretch run towards the National League playoffs. They were two games out of the second wild card slot and facing off against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in the league, and its ace, Clayton Kershaw, who has a standing invitation to enter the Hall of Fame five years after he retires. This was the moment to prove they are an elite team.

This morning, the Mets are now three games behind instead of two. It didn’t go exactly as planned.

Kershaw worked his magic against a Mets lineup that has been producing runs at a consistently high rate since the All-Star break in July. But, all night, the Mets were flailing at Kershaw’s serves of fastballs, curves, and sliders with pinpoint control. When it was over, the Mets had lost convincingly, 9-2, with Noah Syndergaard throwing to Wilson Ramos

Before the game, Mets manager, Mickey Callaway had nearly waxed poetic in his praise of Syndergaard, making one wonder if the controversy of the past few days, in which Syndergaard was reported to have complained to management about his preference not to work with Ramos behind the plate, was much worse than initially thought.

Callaway’s agenda, as peacemaker between Syndergaard and Wilson Ramos, seemed clear.

“I think that Noah is going to go compete no matter who’s catching him,” Callaway said. “If we can get the [pitch] distribution where we want it, get the pitches where we want it, it doesn’t matter who catches him. And we’ve seen that.”

Whether the four runs Syndergaard allowed in the 9-2 loss to the Dodgers were more on him, or on Ramos, is a matter of debate. It was Ramos who called for a full-count curveball to Gavin Lux with two men on base in the fourth inning. It was Syndergaard who hung it, chest-high, in a perfect spot for Lux to crush it off Citi Field’s center-field fence. The ball cleared the orange home run line for a go-ahead, three-run shot, and the Dodgers never trailed again in a game that dropped the Mets three games behind the Cubs in the National League Wild Card race.

The pairing of Syndergaard and Ramos became notable last weekend, when Syndergaard approached Callaway and Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen to request an assignment throwing to anyone else. In those meetings, Syndergaard cited the fact that he owned a 2.22 ERA pitching to backups Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera, but a 5.09 mark working with Ramos. The Mets countered with the fact that Ramos was the National League’s leading hitter since Aug. 1.

Kershaw allowed a home run to J.D. Davis and surrendered a walk in the first inning but got stingy after that. Over the next five innings, the Mets managed two hits — consecutive singles in the fourth inning. The Mets went two for 17 during the span.

The Mets then loaded the bases and chased Kershaw with one out in the seventh inning. Joe Kelly was summoned to extinguish the situation. The right-hander got Brandon Nimmo to hit a chopper to his left. Kelly corralled it and spun for an athletic throw home for the forceout. Amed Rosario lined a run-scoring single before Davis grounded out to limit the damage. Kershaw (14-5), coming off a four-inning start, was ultimately charged with two runs on four hits as he improved to 10-0 in his career against the Mets during the regular season.

The Dodgers tallied four runs in the fourth inning to snatch the lead, capped off by Gavin Lux’s tie-breaking, three-run home run. The homer, the second of Lux’s short career, came on a hanging curveball from Noah Syndergaard (10-8), who allowed four runs in five innings. It traveled 419 feet to straightaway center field. Edwin Rios, another rookie, lofted a pinch-hit, two-home run over the wall in left field in the eighth.

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?