Since the very beginning, Terry Collins has believed. Before the Mets played a single game, he got the team together and told them they should enjoy the easy days but prepare for the rough patches. And in this latest difficult stretch, his voice has become louder than ever. They’ll get through this, he would assure everyone, day after day.
“We’ll fight back,” he repeated Friday with the stern assurance of someone who didn’t think it could be any other way.
The thing is, baseball seasons are long and serpentine, and the stormy patches that come up in May can be completely forgotten by October. So it can be hard to tell if Collins’ optimism belongs to that of a steadfast captain ready to go down with the ship or a steely seaman on the cusp of navigating them to safety.
It seemed like a little bit of both in the seventh inning of Friday night’s 3-0 win over the Angels, which snapped a seven-game losing streak. Jacob deGrom, who had been brilliant all game, had a two-run lead when he allowed a leadoff double to Andrelton Simmons, leading to a visit to the mound by trainer Ray Ramirez, thanks to a callus on his ring finger. DeGrom insisted on staying in and ripped off the callus but walked C.J. Cron on four pitches.
This time pitching coach Dan Warthen went to the mound and again, deGrom did not relent. Collins, knowing full well what was on the line, let him stay on. DeGrom hit Martin Maldonado.
Anyone who has watched the Mets enough knows how this sort of thing usually goes — maybe a grand slam, or at least a hit. But for Collins, there was no such indecision. DeGrom stayed in and struck out Danny Espinosa.
Ben Revere hit a blooper that looked as if it would drop in, but Jose Reyes, attempting an over-the-shoulder catch, got a glove on it. The ball bounced up, and rather than watching it fall to the ground, he made the circus grab.
By the time Cameron Maybin flied out to right for the final out, the crowd had been through a Lifetime movie’s worth of extreme emotions.
“We needed to win tonight, we needed a win bad,” Collins said, adding that he stayed with deGrom because “I just kind of liked the matchups. I didn’t think he was tired . . . He did a great job. He reached back when he needed to and made the big pitches.”
DeGrom said his mechanics felt better than they have in a while — he corrected a problem he had earlier of falling too far off to the first-base side on his follow-through — and “tonight was probably the best I’ve felt,” he said.
The Mets originally thought he had a blister, “but it was a callus there,” he clarified while dressed in the regalia of Mets who win ballgames — the clubhouse crown and robe. “I just ripped it off and I felt fine.”
DeGrom saved a bedraggled staff that allowed 52 runs during the losing streak (the team scored 33). He allowed four hits and three walks in seven innings, striking out nine.
The Mets scored in the first on Curtis Granderson’s RBI ground-rule double to left and in the sixth on Rene Rivera’s RBI single. Michael Conforto homered to lead off the bottom of the seventh, right after deGrom’s escape in the top half.
“Absolutely,” Conforto said when asked if he was affected by the previous half-inning. “I was fired up just to see Jake battle there. It says a lot about this clubhouse, about this team, and that was a big spot for Jake.”