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'Bench Mob' helps Mets keep winning amid injuries, rats, raccoons and other adversity

Kevin Pillar of the New York Mets follows

Kevin Pillar of the New York Mets follows through on a two-run triple against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field on May 12, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Mets were without three injured regulars on Wednesday afternoon. They have only seen Jacob deGrom pitch once this month, and he had to leave that game because of a side injury and is now on the 10-day injured list.

Two of their key reserves are also injured. Their shortstop and second baseman may have exchanged harsh words — if not blows — during a game and then came up with a ridiculous cover story involving a rat, raccoon or possum that was panned by the team’s acting general manager.

None of that seems to matter. The Mets have thrived despite the adversity.

Or, perhaps they have thrived because of the adversity, which is supposed to build character or something.

"There’s guys coming into play that weren’t playing on a regular basis," manager Luis Rojas said on Wednesday after the Mets beat Matt Harvey and the Orioles to complete a 5-0 homestand. "When they see that they are included to the starting lineup and they are part of the winning formula, that just brings everybody into the same level of confidence. That is the one part I see is real important since we are going now on the road and we want to be playing like we are at home."

The Mets go into Friday’s interleague series opener at Tampa Bay riding a seven-game win streak and holding the top spot in the NL East. They are 9-2 in May after going 9-11 in April.

In the absence of injured regulars J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil (for part of the game Tuesday and all of it on Wednesday), the Mets have been getting offensive and defensive contributions from Jonathan Villar, Kevin Pillar and Jose Peraza.

Luis Guillorme and Alberto Almora Jr. are also on the IL, Almora after injuring his shoulder and knee crashing face-first into the centerfield wall on Tuesday. That’s the spirit the Mets have been getting from what they have dubbed the "Bench Mob."

As pointed out, Pillar, Villar, Peraza and backup catcher Tomas Nido are batting a combined .300 with four home runs, 14 runs scored, three stolen bases and 16 RBIs in May.

"I think initially, you get to a point in your career, you still feel like you can be an everyday player," Pillar said. "I can speak for myself. I’ve got to imagine Villar came here because he wanted a chance to win."

The Mets are also getting more offense from some of their regulars, including Dom Smith and Francisco Lindor, both of whom seem to be getting over their April funks.

Smith went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs on Wednesday and has seven hits in his last 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position after starting the season 3-for-27 in those situations. In 2020, Smith hit .333 with RISP and led the Mets with 42 RBIs.

"We know his ability to drive in runs," Rojas said. "He led the team in RBIs last year in the short season. So he is going to give you a quality at-bat in that situation. He just needed to find himself with his mechanics, with his approach, so he could stay back longer and recognize pitches."

Lindor went 1-for-4 with a stolen base and a run on Wednesday. The $341-million man has a six-game hitting streak during which he is 8-for-20.

The Mets hope they will have McNeil (body cramps) back on Friday. Nimmo (bruised finger) is expected to come off the injured list during the weekend series and was scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Thursday for Triple-A Syracuse at Worcester, the Mets announced.

Also, the Mets will get to use the designated hitter during the three days in Tampa, which should give some more at-bats to the Bench Mob as Smith or Pete Alonso slide over to DH.

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