MIAMI — Buck Showalter says it all the time: The Mets’ first goal is to be better than the four other teams in their division. They want to win the World Series, sure, but before they can do that, the first title they seek is the NL East — especially under the new postseason format in which wild-card clubs are required to participate in an extra playoff round.
Through their 100th game of the season, a 4-0 win over the Marlins on Saturday, highlighted by Carlos Carrasco’s 7 2⁄3 innings and home runs by Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor and J.D. Davis, the Mets have done just as Showalter asked: dominate the division.
That is measured not only by the standings, which showed the Mets with a three-game lead over Atlanta after Saturday’s games, but also their division record. The Mets have the best such mark in the majors at 30-12.
If you narrow that a tad and compare the play of the Mets and Atlanta against their most frequent mutual opponents — Philadelphia, Miami and Washington — you see another edge. Atlanta is good, 20-12 for a .625 winning percentage. But the Mets are better: 26-9, .743. That is the difference in the NL East race so far.
“The more you can win in your division, the better you’re going to end up at the end of the year,” Lindor said. “We gotta go out there and not take anything for granted, but in-division games are extremely important because you play so many against [those teams]. If you play bad against your division, it’s going to be tough to have a good year.”
In their latest NL East win, Carrasco was effective and efficient, scattering four hits and two walks and striking out seven. His scoreless-innings streak is up to 18 2⁄3.
He wiggled out of a bit of trouble in the first, when the Marlins (47-54) put two runners on. After that, he didn’t allow anybody else to reach even second base until Charles Leblanc doubled (his first career hit) with two outs in the eighth.
That was plenty for Carrasco to pick up the 100th win of his career. He ranks 18th on the active wins list.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. To get my 100th win, it means a lot,” he said. “Even more, getting it with this special group right here. They go out there every day to play hard for us. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Showalter said: “Everybody is in there congratulating him. It’s quite a milestone. I’m just so glad that he’s been able to stay healthy and pitch well this year and remind everybody what a good pitcher he’s been for a long time. I think everybody pulls so hard for him.”
Offensively, the Mets (63-37) rode the long ball, which hasn’t often been the case for them.
Showalter was pleased with the two home runs in the eighth inning from Lindor and Davis, which prevented him from having to use closer Edwin Diaz.
Lindor’s was a solo shot off righthander Huascar Brazoban into the upper deck in rightfield. On his way back to the dugout, Lindor, a native of Puerto Rico, waved at the fans waving the flag of his home island on Puerto Rican Heritage Night at the ballpark.
Davis followed with a no-doubter that traveled an estimated 444 feet to straightaway center. That came against lefthander Richard Bleier as Davis, a righthanded hitter, replaced Daniel Vogelbach, the lefthanded-batting side of the Mets’ DH platoon.
McNeil got the homer-palooza started in the second inning when he went deep off Nick Neidert (five innings, two runs). It was his first long ball in more than six weeks. He added a double for a 2-for-4 night from the No. 8 spot in the lineup, perhaps the beginning of an emergence from his recent slump.
“You can tell when he’s struggling, for sure,” Lindor said with a laugh, contrasting the uber-intense McNeil with the more upbeat and also recently struggling Brandon Nimmo. “But when he goes 3-for-4, you can tell he missed one at-bat. It’s every day, that’s just how he is. You gotta learn how to love him. You go out there and play with him and you know he’s going to do his best day in and day out.”