It’s a little too early to tell if it’s a little too late.
There’s time still until the Aug. 1 trade deadline, but there are a slew of teams stacked in front of the Mets for the last wild card spot. Their playoff odds going into Wednesday night’s 5-1 win over the White Sox were at about 15%, according to FanGraphs. They’re still five games under .500, and, in fourth place and 16.5 behind first-place Atlanta, so the division is far out of reach.
But hope can have teams looking past the odds.
And when Justin Verlander performs like he did Wednesday night, when the lineup produces, and when Brett Baty looks like he’s figured out how to shout down the doubt that threatened to consume him — well, hope is what you get.
They’re now 9-4 over their last 13.
“We’ve been fighting and clawing and doing everything we can,” Verlander said. “We see the leaderboard. We understand where we’re at. We need to go on a run. Hopefully, this is the beginning of something special and we go on a stretch and we play the baseball we know we can play. We haven’t done it yet. I think you’ve seen flashes at times but we haven’t put it together. In my mind, starting pitching is a big factor.”
Coming off a wild and somewhat baffling outing against the Dodgers, Verlander looked like his vintage self — mowing down the White Sox with speed and efficiency, while retiring 19 of his first 20 batters (until the seventh, the White Sox's only hit was Andrew Benintendi’s leadoff fourth-inning single).
Verlander allowed one run on three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over eight innings, throwing just 100 pitches, 76 for strikes. Adam Ottavino threw a perfect ninth.
More importantly, the start showed the hallmarks of the plan the Mets hoped would key their season — relying on Verlander and Max Scherzer to dominate in a way they really haven’t been able to this year.
Meanwhile, Baty, who came into the day hitting .188 in July, cost the Mets a game with a misplay Saturday and nearly did the same Tuesday, showed some of the mental fortitude that Buck Showalter keeps hinting at. After not collecting an extra-base hit in over two weeks, Baty hit his second homer in as many days and made two strong plays at third — including one where he backhanded a ball Oscar Colas hit in the third, throwing across his body from foul territory to get the out.
“It’s huge [for my confidence] for sure when you make a play like that,” Baty said. “It definitely gives you a lot of confidence that you can make the next one. It’s about just carrying that feeling throughout the whole game in every game.”
Baty also kicked off the scoring in the third, teeing off on Touki Toussaint’s hanging 0-and-1 splitter, driving it 412 feet to center to give the Mets the 1-0 lead in the third.
The Mets' offense, which feasted on the White Sox by scoring 11 runs the night prior, kept it going in the fourth.
Toussaint walked Pete Alonso to lead off the fourth and hit Jeff McNeil with a pitch to bring up Alvarez, who hit a seeing-eye single to right to chase Alonso home. Daniel Vogelbach walked, and Baty hit into a fielder’s choice to plate McNeil and put runners on the corners with one out.
Luis Guillorme’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0, and Brandon Nimmo hit a laser double to the leftfield corner to score Baty.
With a tweaked slider and one of his best curveballs of the year, Verlander was nigh untouchable until the seventh, when Luis Robert Jr. pulled a just-outside slider 405-feet to left-center for the final margin.
“I feel like this year, I’ve had to work really hard,” said Verlander — essentially echoing the Mets’ unofficial 2023 motto. “You dig yourself in a hole and you’ve gotta dig yourself out, claw your way out. We haven’t quite done that yet.”
No, but nights like Wednesday sometimes make it feel like they could.