Mets’ resiliency on tough day a good sign in their NL East quest

4

The cursed Mets have never needed a Friday the 13th to get a bad bounce, but man did they get a doozy when Jacob deGrom was shut down for at least two more weeks. The defending champs were in town, and the deGrom announcement dumped a bucket of ice water on this blistering hot series.

But after that bulletin and the news that Javier Baez was booked for the injured list, all the Mets could do hours later was prove that they are as tough and resilient as Luis Rojas and Pete Alonso keep swearing they are.

They did all of that with two outs and nobody on in the seventh, down 4-0 to the Dodgers. The Mets scored four of their own largely on the work of Michael Conforto, Dom Smith, and Jeff McNeil, the three hitters Rojas inexplicably kept out of the starting lineup in a critical game. In trying to rest his guys after Thursday’s doubleheader — while avoiding lefty-lefty matchups with the brilliant Julio Urias — Rojas misread the room before a charged-up crowd under the Friday night lights.

“It felt like a playoff atmosphere,” McNeil said. Rojas added that the crowd of 38,395 might have been the best of the season. In other words, this was the perfect time to hit the gas, not the brakes.

As it turned out, Will Smith’s two-run homer off Jeurys Familia in the 10th ultimately broke the Mets’ three-game winning streak. The home team threatened again in the bottom of the 10th before losing by a 6-5 count.

Jeurys Familia looks on dejectedly after giving up a two-run game-winning homer to Will Smith in the 10th inning of the Mets’ 6-5 loss to the Dodgers.
AP

It wasn’t the end of the world, especially since the Phillies’ loss to the Reds kept the Mets just half a game out of first. In fact, a day of very bad news ended with this very good news:

The Mets showed more evidence they still have enough talent, and heart, to conquer a below-average division that requires only above-average play from the team most determined to win it.

So there’s your new rallying cry for the season’s final 47 games. “You Gotta Believe” has morphed into “You Got A Reprieve.” The lousy NL East has given the Mets a chance to make the playoffs without deGrom, so they should go ahead and make them.

Go ahead and win the division and carry deGrom to October, and then hope he’s healthy enough to start tormenting opponents again in the Division Series.

Hey, it’s possible the ace might not throw another pitch in a regular season best defined as bittersweet.

The sweet? DeGrom heard others compare him favorably to the very best starters of all time.

The bitter? His body has raged against his ability to regularly fire fastballs exceeding 100 miles per hour.

After a trip to Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles confirmed there was only slight improvement in his elbow inflammation, deGrom won’t likely be ready to go until sometime mid-to-late next month, if then.

Therein lies the beauty of the 2021 playoff format. No matter how unworthy the NL East champion might be, that champ will bypass the one-and-done wild-card shootout and advance straight into the main postseason draw, taking another free step closer to the World Series.

Never mind that the 70-46 Dodgers would be completely dominating the 59-56 Mets and everyone else in the NL East. If L.A. doesn’t overtake San Francisco, it will need to play a sudden-death game with, say, San Diego, just to face the Giants in the Division Series. The Dodgers’ road through October would be much rougher than the Mets’.

Assuming the Mets get there.

Rojas described his latest opponent as “this unbelievable Dodgers team.” This was just the first of 13 straight games against the Dodgers and Giants, and if nothing else, in Round 1, the Mets showed they can trade punches with the heavyweights.

“I’m proud of them,” Rojas said. “This is who we’ve been the entire season. To show that against a team like this shows we don’t shy away.”

After losing seven of eight games, plunging into third place, and damaging everything they accomplished over their three-month run atop their division, the Mets desperately needed their sweep of Washington. Of course, the Nationals arrived at Citi Field as something of an American Legion team — plus Juan Soto. But a win is a win is a win, and three consecutive wins allowed the Mets to catch their breath after their acting GM, Zack Scott, had publicly ripped them for their substandard preparation and performance.

“I think over the course of 162 games,” Alonso had said, “this team is built to last.”

The Mets have no choice but to prove they are built to last now. They fell short against the defending champs Friday night, but yes, they are still good enough to win their division, with or without deGrom.

View original post