WASHINGTON — The Mets’ 7-3 win over the Nationals on Monday night mattered as much as any other game, and it came with the fun subplot of Max Scherzer facing (and beating) his former team in his former home for a second time this season. But it really was just a warm-up for the main event.
Tuesday is poised to be, if not the biggest day of the Mets’ season, maybe the most eventful. Like every other team, they have until 6 p.m. to make the deal(s) they desire for the playoff push. Unlike every other team, they are getting Jacob deGrom — pitching his first game in more than a year — back at 7 p.m.
On Deadline-and-deGrom Eve, Mets players were trying to strike a careful balance: interest in both of those things while trying to keep their cliche one-day-at-a-time blinders on.
“So much hubbub. So much. It’s a big day tomorrow,” Mark Canha said half-jokingly. “I anticipate there will be fireworks or something — something crazy. We’ll have a petting zoo in here. Bring out all the bells and whistles.”
Brandon Nimmo said: “From our perspective, it’s exciting, there’s a lot of unknown, but we have zero control over what happens. All we can do is speculate.”
Well, speculate and win — a season-high seventh game in a row. Nimmo went 4-for-5 to pace the Mets’ 13-hit barrage. Pete Alonso hit his 27th homer, doubled and walked twice. Francisco Lindor hit a three-run home run off Steve Cishek, who in April hit Lindor in the head with a pitch (and who came up and in with a fastball to begin this at-bat).
“I was scared,” Lindor said. “Thank God, I was able to put a good swing and hit one out.”
Manager Buck Showalter added: “I can’t tell you the fortitude it takes to get in there and hit, let alone hit a home run.”
That was plenty of support for Scherzer, who allowed three runs (two earned) in 6 2⁄3 innings.
About the only hitter he had trouble with was Juan Soto, who — amid the possibility he will get traded — might have played his final home game with the Nationals (35-69). He walked, homered and walked in three duels with Scherzer, then walked again and stole a base after Scherzer left. Soto also threw out Tomas Nido at the plate to end the Mets’ three-run second inning, and when he missed a fly ball that fell fair and hopped into the stands for a double, he settled for a fist bump with a young fan.
The Mets (65-37) aren’t in the Soto sweepstakes, but they do have other items on their to-do list. Having already added designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach and backup outfielder Tyler Naquin, they still were on the hunt for bullpen help and perhaps another hitter — though it also was possible that they would do nothing more.
“You hope that you don’t lose anybody that you really love or feel like is a big part of the mojo with the team,” said Adam Ottavino, who pitched 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings. “That can be a little jarring. But at the same time, we’re trying to make the team better to win. You just never know what is going to happen.”
The trade deadline is particularly tricky for J.D. Davis, who acknowledged being a candidate to be dealt. He has had a down year, hitting .238 with a .683 OPS after an 0-for-2 performance Monday. After having surgery on his left hand, he only now is getting close to full strength; doctors told him that would take 10 to 12 months, and he is approaching the 10-month mark.
Will he get dealt? Might he be otherwise supplanted as the righthanded-hitting portion of the Mets’ DH platoon? Or stay put in this job?
“Fortunately, I’m still here, still with these guys,” he said before the game. “I love these guys and I love this clubhouse. If [a trade] happens, it happens.”
And then there is deGrom. He missed four months because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade. Now he joins a team that has been in first place all year.
In discussing deGrom, Canha expressed a sentiment that applies to the deadline, too.
“The more pieces we have, the more depth we have, the better our chances,” he said. “It’s a pretty straightforward answer, but I think it’s a practical answer. We’re thrilled to have him back. We’ve held down the fort until now and now hopefully we get even better.”