Getting swept in Miami in May didn’t end the season. Losing the first game of the second half to fall to 11 under .500 didn’t end the season. Suffering six consecutive losses at home in August didn’t end the season. Blowing a six-run lead in the ninth inning in Washington last week didn’t end the season.
Improbably, inexplicably, incredibly, the Mets are actual playoff contenders, frequent agita and all. And, after an 11-1 win over the Diamondbacks on Thursday, they are positioned as well as almost anybody in the National League wild-card race.
The best game of Juan Lagares’ life — two homers, six RBIs — and Marcus Stroman’s best start with the Mets helped the team to a blowout finish of the four-game sweep in a rainy matinee at a mostly empty Citi Field. They are two games behind the tied Cubs and Brewers, who recently have lost star players to significant injuries, for the last NL postseason spot.
“We know,” said Michael Conforto, “that we still have a shot at this thing.”
Thursday completed the Mets’ thorough wrecking of the Diamondbacks (75-72), who began the series ahead of the Mets (76-70) in the standings and were perhaps the hottest team in baseball, having won 11 of 13 games. The Mets outscored Arizona, 26-4. The Diamondbacks went 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position and left 31 men on base.
The game turned in the third inning and in effect ended in the fifth.
In the third, with the Mets already up by one thanks to Todd Frazier’s third homer in two days, Pete Alonso reached on shortstop Nick Ahmed’s two-base throwing error. That led to five unearned runs against Arizona lefthander Alex Young (2 2/3 innings, one earned run). J.D. Davis singled to score Alonso, and a couple of batters later Lagares whacked a long fly ball to left-center for the first grand slam of his career. Lagares said he couldn’t remember hitting a grand slam at any other point at any level.
In the fifth, Robinson Cano homered to right-center on a no-doubt line drive, Lagares homered again on a fly ball that barely got over the wall in right and Tomas Nido made it back-to-back jacks with a shot to left.
Lagares’ most recent homer at Citi Field had been Sept. 7, 2017 — more than two years ago. He had never previously homered twice in a game. His six RBIs doubled his previous career-high.
“The selflessness pays off,” manager Mickey Callaway said of Lagares, who has mostly been on the bench this season. “He didn’t complain, he didn’t get down, he didn’t let it affect his work. He just kept on working, kept on getting in there with [the hitting coaches] every day and kept himself in a position where when he gets his shot, he can perform.”
Conforto launched a solo shot halfway up the upper deck in rightfield, his career-high 30th homer and career-high-tying 82nd RBI.
The Mets’ six homers Thursday were a franchise record for a home game. The Mets’ 114 homers at Citi Field in 2019 are a franchise record for a season at home.
Stroman allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings, his first time recording an out in the seventh in eight starts with the Mets. He struck out six and allowed at least one baserunner in all but one inning, scattering four hits and four walks.
“He was getting a lot more contact in the first three pitches — weak contact, put in play,” Callaway said. “That’s always going to help anybody.”
Stroman said the vibe in the Mets’ clubhouse reminds him of the energy his Blue Jays teams had during playoff pushes in years past.
“We show up in the clubhouse and we feel like we’re going to win every day,” Stroman said. “We have that collective feeling. That’s not something that you can install. That’s just something that’s there.”