The circus started before the first pitch.
First, there was the big meeting between Mickey Callaway, the front office and the rest of the team. Then, amid swirling rumors that Callaway was close to being fired, Brodie Van Wagenen made a public declaration of support for his embattled manager. And finally, the general manager revealed that Yoenis Cespedes had broken his ankle in a “violent fall” at his Florida ranch.
Three members of Cirque du Soleil also showed up in neon pink chicken costumes to throw the first pitch, because the actual circus is also in town.
It was amid those sideshows that the free-falling Mets on Monday had to make their stand against the Nationals — a team they needed to beat during a time they absolutely needed to do it — and in a rare show of vigor, they did. Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso homered, and the Mets patchwork pitching made it work as they staked an early lead and managed to hold off the Nationals, 5-3 at Citi Field.
“We’re all in this together,” Alonso said. “Let’s get this done. Let’s get where we want to go. Today is a start. Today is the start of doing something. Today is done and we need to snowball it tomorrow.”
Before Monday’s game, the Mets had lost five in a row, and were shut out on back-to-back days by the basement-dwelling Marlins, who had only shut out a team one time before this season. They also managed to be 6 ½ games back in an NL East that no one seems all that primed to win, and are in third place only because the Nationals and Marlins are in perpetual tailspin. Monday’s win put them four games under .500, but with a decent chance to claw out of this hole, what with three more games against the Nationals (19-28) and three against the Tigers (18-26).
“It’s a new week and to get that first win after a poor showing on the road is awesome,” Todd Frazier said. “It gets us going. It’s not a relief it’s something that — when you come together and people focus on trying to win and one goal and it happens, it feels pretty good.”
Starter Wilmer Font did about as well as the Mets could have hoped, allowing two earned runs over four innings, with four walks and three strikeouts, and the Mets did what they could to get to Patrick Corbin, who allowed solo home runs to Rosario and Alonso in the first. Alonso’s homer — he pulled Corbin’s 92-mph fastball into the stands in left — was his 15th homer of the year, giving the Mets the 2-0 lead and tying him with Ron Swoboda for most first-half homers for a rookie in franchise history.
Those were the first runs they’d scored since Friday, and by the second inning they had more hits (four) than they had in the previous two games combined (three).
Things even improved from there, when Rosario led off the third with a walk, Wilson Ramos walked with two outs, and Frazier singled to bring Rosario home. Carlos Gomez then collected his first hit as a Met since 2007 — a double off the wall that scored Ramos and put the Mets up 4-0. The Nationals got two back in the fourth on Anthony Rendon’s homer and Yan Gomes’ RBI single, and got to within 4-3 in the eighth. That’s when Rendon doubled off Jeurys Familia and Juan Soto singled off Daniel Zamora to drive him in. The Mets got an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, on Dom Smith’s RBI single.
In all, though, Monday painted a picture of a team rallying around its manager. Frazier, Rosario and Alonso all said they never really believed Callaway was in danger of losing his job. Alonso took it one step further.
“I love playing for Mick,” he said. “Other guys in the clubhouse do too. Let’s say his job was in jeopardy, that would be awful because all of us love playing for skip. He’s an awesome guy to have.”
“That would devastating if his job was in jeopardy.”