CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 21: J.D. Martinez #28 of the...

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 21: J.D. Martinez #28 of the New York Mets celebrates after hitting a three-run home run in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 21, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) Credit: Getty Images/Jamie Sabau

CHICAGO — Presented a perfect opportunity on Friday afternoon to demonstrate just how far they have come, the Mets did exactly that.

The man on the mound for the Cubs was Shota Imanaga, an early National League Rookie of the Year favorite and Cy Young Award candidate who dominated the Mets last month at Citi Field. That night, Imanaga tossed seven scoreless innings, one in a string of quiet offensive performances for the then-flailing Mets lineup.

But the hitters are struggling no longer. This red-hot version of the offense pummeled Imanaga — who suffered through the worst game of his young MLB career — in an 11-1 win at Wrigley Field, the Mets’ eighth in nine games.

That blowout extended a favorable Mets trend: They are the highest-scoring team in the majors in June at 6.35 runs per game.

In May, conversely, the Mets tallied a middle-of-the-pack four runs per game.

Combine that with a similar turnaround for the pitching — starting and relieving — and you get what the Mets (36-38) have been: just about the hottest team in baseball.

“We know we have a good lineup,” J.D. Martinez said. “I feel like we preach it and sometimes it shows up, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s just baseball. We saw it [Friday] and in [Texas] that first game too, the kind of potential this lineup has.”


Martinez has been central to the turnaround, in hitting coach Eric Chavez’s view.

The Mets had been “pretty embarrassing” at the plate early this season, Chavez said. When they faced Imanaga the first time, Martinez had been on the team for only a few days.

Now he is not only productive (.287 average, .870 OPS, nine home runs) but regularly dispensing his hitting wisdom to the rest of the group — with the encouragement of the coaches.

“It’s like having an extra hitting coach,” Chavez said. “Which is great. And I told him, please talk to everybody. I got the best advice from other players, not necessarily coaches. It means more when it’s coming from a peer and who’s actually in the box. Having him has really been helpful.”

It helped, of course, that the Mets caught Imanaga on a bad day. Chavez and Martinez both pointed to his fastball having less life/movement in addition to the velocity being down, averaging only 90 mph (as opposed to the usual 92, a meaningful difference).

That was evident early. The turning point came in the top of the first inning as Martinez crushed a three-run home run before Imanaga recorded an out. The Mets added three more in the second on Francisco Alvarez’s solo shot and Brandon Nimmo’s two-run blast.

They chased Imanaga during a four-run fourth. The lefthander finished with personal worsts in innings (three-plus), runs (10) and home runs (three). His ERA jumped from 1.89 to 2.96.

“He doesn’t have as much ride; his velocity seems to be a little down, so the ball is flatter,” Chavez said. “When we faced him [in May], we had no chance. That thing was moving. A little bit more velocity. Plus our guys are just swinging the bats right now. When he made a mistake, we didn’t miss it.

“Phenomenal [offensive production recently]. Super-proud of them as individuals. Because it was pretty embarrassing. I think all of us took a lot of hits. But they stuck with it. Getting J.D. really helped because he’s such a pro.”

That was plenty of support for lefthander Jose Quintana, who contributed a second consecutive high-quality start: 6  1⁄3 innings, one unearned run.

Francisco Lindor (two doubles), Martinez (four RBIs) and Nimmo had multiple hits. But Jose Iglesias led the way with a 4-for-5, three-RBI effort.

Manager Carlos Mendoza continues to heap praise upon Iglesias every chance he gets.

“I like the energy,” Mendoza said. “[The score was] 11-1 in that last at-bat. For him to run down the line and beat out that double play tells you all you need to know [about] the way he’s playing the game. It’s contagious, so it’s huge to have a guy like that.”


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