The Mets make their case as New York’s best team
By Victor Mather
With talk earlier this year about this possibly being the best New York baseball season ever, it had seemed clear that there was at least a small divide between the city’s major league teams.
The Yankees were still the big dogs, and while the Mets were having a great season, they seemed less threatening.
After the games of July 23, just a bit more than two weeks ago, the Yankees were 65-31 and battling the Los Angeles Dodgers for baseball’s best record. The Mets were a creditable 58-37, putting them 6-1/2 games behind their crosstown rivals and just a half-game ahead of their rival Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
Things changed in a hurry. Since then, the Mets are 15-2 and the Yankees are 6-10. That had put the Mets on top, at least for now. With Wednesday’s 10-2 win over Cincinnati at Citi Field, the Mets improved to 73-39, two games better than the Yankees, who lost, 4-3, to Seattle on Wednesday and fell to 71-41. The Mets have also taken over the No. 2 record in the majors, behind the Dodgers, who are still flying high with a 77-33 record following Wednesday night’s 8-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.
Perhaps most important, the Mets have opened a wide lead over Atlanta.
The current hot streak began with a win over the San Diego Padres on July 24, but it took shape over the next two games, when the Mets hosted the Yankees at Citi Field for the first Subway Series of the season and came away with a two-game sweep.
“It was honestly like a World Series home run,” Eduardo Escobar told reporters after his two-run homer in the first inning helped lead the Mets to a 6-3 win in the first game. “I’ve never played in an environment like that.”
A Starling Marte walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning of the second game completed the sweep a day later.
The wins seemed to launch the Mets, and the momentum has kept going from there: a sweep of Miami, two of three from Washington and then a crucial four of five from Atlanta that widened their division lead. Wednesday’s win gave them a three-game sweep of the Reds. After an off-day Thursday, the Mets will host the Philadelphia Phillies for a three-game series at Citi Field.
The Mets have shown excellence on the mound and at the plate. They are in the top four in the majors in runs per game and runs allowed per game. (Unsurprisingly, the Yankees and Dodgers are, too.)
The Mets have been bolstered by the return of starting pitcher Jacob deGrom from injury. He got a no-decision in a loss in his first game back, although he gave up only one run in five innings, then he struck out 12 in a 5-2 win Sunday over Atlanta, earning his first victory in more than a year. Max Scherzer, the team’s other ace, is 3-0 during the hot run, surrendering just two earned runs in three starts. And closer Edwin Díaz, who has been shredding the league with a 52.9% strikeout rate, saved six of the 15 wins.
On offense, the Mets have done it with depth. Only one regular starter, first baseman Pete Alonso, has an on-base plus slugging percentage above .900, but nearly everyone is chipping in. And five of Alonso’s team-high 29 homers have come during the current run.
Despite the hot streak, there are a few concerning signs. The Mets weren’t exactly blowing teams out. Thirteen of the 15 wins in their run were by four runs or fewer. Although the Yankees have won only six games in that span, three of them were by six runs and two by five.
This follows a season-long pattern. The Yankees’ run differential of plus-204 trails only the Dodgers, who are at plus-233. The Mets are plus-127. That is a good total, and a win is a win, but the huge scoring margins of the Dodgers and the Yankees could well be an indication that they can reach a higher gear.
In any case, the Mets lead the NL East by seven games over Atlanta, and the Yankees have a 10-game lead over Toronto, which had its Wednesday game in Baltimore postponed due to rain.
FanGraphs gives both New York teams a 100% chance of making the playoffs. So besides bragging rights, not much is on the line for which team winds up with the best record.
And yet … best regular-season record does determine home-field advantage in the World Series. There’s a long way to go, and a lot would have to break right, but if there should be the first Subway Series since 2000, every regular-season game might actually matter.