MIAMI — Among the improbable moments that have marked the Mets’ wildly improbable 10-1 start was the game-winning grounder Wednesday night.
Adrian Gonzalez — traded by the Dodgers, paid nearly $22 million by the Braves to go away, signed by the Mets for the major-league minimum — singled up the middle to drive in two runs, epitomizing just how well pretty much everything has gone for the Mets.
How hot have they been? The hit from Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter, came against a lefty. And put the Mets up for good. For their eighth straight win. On a night when they were hitless into the seventh.
Logic suggests that should not have happened. But logic has not ruled these first two weeks of the season.
As they return to Citi Field for a six-game homestand against the Brewers and Nationals, two teams expected to compete for a playoff spot, it might be time to recalibrate expectations for the 2018 Mets.
“We had confidence going into the season. It hasn’t changed the confidence we already had,” Gonzalez said after Wednesday’s win. “Obviously, people didn’t believe in us going into the year, and now it’s kind of changing their minds. But we knew what we had and we know what we have going forward.”
The Mets have had a better first two weeks than any other team in the majors, and the external perception of the team is starting to shift appropriately, even if the players’ perception of themselves has stayed steady.
The Mets have a 68.9-percent chance of making it to the playoffs, according to FanGraphs, the baseball analytics website. The day before the season began, those odds were 44.9 percent. Put another way: The Mets already have improved their playoff chances from worse than a coin flip to better than two-out-of-three simulated seasons.
(The Nationals, for what it’s worth, have seen their odds tick down from 89.3 percent to 82.1, per FanGraphs.)
In Baseball Prospectus’ version, the Mets have a 52.7-percent chance of making the playoffs, fifth-best in the National League. Don’t forget, five teams per league make the playoffs.
But the Mets’ season is a real one that will play out on the field, not in a computer. Spurring their rise are the kind of contributions that preseason projections don’t take into account — which is to say, the Mets have had big games from all corners of the roster.
Wednesday’s go-ahead hit was just the latest noteworthy moment for Gonzalez, a somewhat controversial offseason addition given the presence of prospect Dominic Smith and the availability of other veteran options. He also had a grand slam Sunday against the Nationals, when he ended the game with a tying run-saving scoop at first. Gonzalez has a .296/.406/.444 slash line in 10 games.
Gonzalez isn’t the only one. Zack Wheeler (seven innings, one run) and Hansel Robles (1.80 ERA, 10 strikeouts in five innings) have returned to major-league success after pitching themselves off the roster with bad spring trainings.
Jacob Rhame, who earned a bottom-of-the-bullpen spot with a good spring training, already has a hold and a save. Robert Gsellman (1.29 ERA, 12 strikeouts in seven innings) and Seth Lugo (0.00 ERA) have transformed the bullpen with their conversions to relief.
All of that, much like the Mets’ record, comes with the normal early-season, small-sample-size caveats.
But it’s impossible to deny the reality: The Mets have the best record in baseball.
“This is what we expected. This is what we want to do,” Todd Frazier said. “We want to come out here, we want to win. I say it all the time: There are no ‘I’ guys on this team. If there is, we take care of it internally, which we haven’t [had to].
“We’re motivated to win games. We know what we have. We know what we’re capable of.”
The Mets are off to the best start in franchise history with a 10-1 record. Can they maintain this torrid pace over the next 14 games to challenge the best records through 25 games?
1946 Red Sox*
* Reached World Series