The Mets keep the doors open, the TV on and opponents on edge
By Scott Miller
The weekend didn’t quite go the way the New York Mets imagined it would to open their 11-day, 10-game tour of Southern California, but their rules of engagement became pretty clear: Leave the hotel doors open, the television on and make sure Pete Alonso keeps swinging.
After spotting the Los Angeles Dodgers the first two games of a four-game set, the Mets stormed back Saturday and Sunday to earn a split. They slipped past the Dodgers’ two best starting pitchers, ambushing Walker Buehler and outlasting Julio Urías. Despite still being without their own best starters, the Mets nevertheless headed for their next stop on the trip, San Diego, sporting the National League’s best record at 37-19.
“Last man standing, I guess. I don’t know,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said, before adding of the Dodgers: “They’re a really good team. I’m really proud of our guys battling back these last two days.”
Third baseman Eduardo Escobar, whose 10-pitch struggle with Brusdar Graterol produced an eighth inning sacrifice fly in Sunday’s 5-4, 10-inning thriller, said the four games “felt like a playoff atmosphere.” Designated hitter J.D. Davis, who doubled home the go-ahead run in the 10th, said the weekend shows “we’re just as good as they are.”
Growing evidence would suggest he is correct.
With the team’s aces, Jacob deGrom (stress reaction, right shoulder) and Max Scherzer (oblique), back home on the mend, the Mets narrowly avoided what would have been another disastrous injury when Francisco Lindor, the team’s All-Star shortstop, checked into his hotel suite upon the Mets’ arrival in Los Angeles and promptly slammed his right middle finger in a door. He wound up with a fracture in the tip of the finger, sat out Thursday night’s series opener and considered himself fortunate to be back in the lineup the next day.
The pain was so severe in the moment, Lindor said, that he jogged around his suite for a few minutes hoping it would calm down. He was thankful that the fingernail remained intact and the door didn’t catch any more of his finger.
“I feel like if it was somewhere higher, it would probably be surgery or something,” he said.
The Mets were blanked 2-0 in his absence on Thursday, then lost, 6-1, in his return on Friday night. And both Lindor and Showalter said they knew exactly what was coming that night: Mookie Betts opened the bottom of the first inning with a hard ground ball to Lindor, whose throwing was tested right away.
“I haven’t anticipated a ground ball this much in years,” Lindor said afterward through a sparkling — and relieved — smile. “I knew that first one was coming to me.”
Back at the team hotel, Lindor said the accident scene had been left intact, indicating that the dangerous door was one leading out to his balcony.
“The door was still open,” he said, still smiling. “I ain’t touching that door. I’ll deal with the sun.”
Hands proved to be a big theme of the weekend. During the series it was revealed that one of Scherzer’s dogs, Rafi, had bit his owner’s pitching hand.
Scherzer said he missed one day of throwing, assured everyone in a tweet that everything would be all right and said “this is literally a non story.” Considering his $43 million salary, and how much the team will rely on him as the calendar turns to October, Scherzer might forgive the Mets and their fans for being concerned.
In the absences of Scherzer and deGrom, who threw a 19-pitch bullpen session on Saturday in New York, other starters like David Peterson and Trevor Williams are stepping up. The Mets now are 6-0 in Peterson’s starts this season despite his unusual exit in the middle of Mookie Betts’ fourth-inning at-bat Saturday.
Peterson had limited the Dodgers to one run over 3-2/3 innings, and was facing Betts with one on and two outs and the Mets clinging to a 5-4 lead. Betts scalded the first pitch he saw down the left-field line for a foul. Showalter immediately appeared, calling for reliever Colin Holderman, who promptly retired Betts on a called third strike to end the threat.
With Showalter deftly maneuvering the pitching to his liking all weekend, as he has so often this year, Alonso was able to take over on Saturday. He smashed a two-run homer in the third and then drilled a three-run blast over the right-center field fence in the seventh. His five RBIs in the 9-4 win gave him 53 in 55 games.
Informed that his second homer Saturday moved him into a tie for 10th place on the Mets’ all-time home run list at 122, Alonso said, “That’s sick. I didn’t know that. I just want to keep it going.”
“He’s hot. His nitro zone is down in the zone and all the damage he’s done to us has been down,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, expressing frustration with some of his pitchers. “A guy that can hit a line drive out to right-center field at night at Dodger Stadium, if he touches it, it’s 100 miles an hour, he’s pretty dangerous. So when you don’t execute, you really are going to pay.”
The Mets opened their 3-game series against the San Diego Padres with an 11-5 win at Petco Park on Monday night.
At least Sunday’s comeback came during a day game, allowing their fans — including one in particular — to be well-rested entering the workweek.
“The grit in this team is amazing,” said Steven A. Cohen, the team owner, who was in Los Angeles for the series, on Friday afternoon. “Just watching them come back, how fun is that? You’re never out of it. The real problem is now I can’t turn the TV off. I’ve got to stay up and watch. Before, you could turn the TV off and say, ah, you’re not going to come back. You’ve got to leave the TV on now.”
And, of course, you have to leave the doors open.
“Stay away from the doors,” Lindor said. “Please stay away, I’m telling you.”