CINCINNATI — The Mets’ conflicting realities were plain for all to see Friday in an 8-1 win over the Reds.
In the happy reality, they continued to witness two of the best individual seasons in club history. Jacob deGrom, a strong contender for what would be his second straight National League Cy Young Award, struck out nine in seven shutout innings to improve his chances. Pete Alonso, the surefire NL Rookie of the Year favorite, hit his 50th home run.
In the less happy reality, the Mets (80-73) remained long shots to make the playoffs and thus are at risk of wasting those remarkable seasons. They are 3 1⁄2 games behind the Brewers for the last National League wild card spot. With nine games left, the Mets’ elimination number is six.
“[Fifty homers] was always in the realm of possibility, but I wasn’t really shooting for it,” Alonso said. “I don’t think this is truly going to [sink in] until taking some time to reflect in the offseason. Right now it’s like, we’re trying to win games and sneak into the playoffs here. We still have an opportunity to make something great happen.”
Added deGrom: “Personal goals, everybody sets them. But the more important thing is the team. Getting to the playoffs is the main goal.”
Alonso’s blast was a no-doubter in the eighth inning off Sal Romano, who threw a fastball down and away. It somehow went an estimated 437 feet to right-center.
“What did they say, 437? Plus 100. It’s not even close to being 437,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “It’s incredible. Even [former Red Todd] Frazier made that remark on the bench; he’s never seen a lefty hit the ball up that far.”
Alonso is two homers away from tying the major league rookie record of 52 set by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in 2017.
DeGrom, meanwhile, continued his dominant second half. He wasn’t perfect — allowing four hits (no walks) and three steals — but lasted seven innings for the seventh start in a row.
That lowered his ERA to 2.51, second in the NL behind the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.35 ERA), the Cy Young favorite for much of the season. DeGrom leads Ryu in a bunch of other statistics, including strikeouts (by 100), innings (by 28 1⁄3) and WHIP (by 0.04).
DeGrom has one game remaining unless the Mets start him on short rest in the season finale Sept. 29, a possibility if they still are alive in the wild card race, Callaway said.
Largely absent from the deGrom/Cy Young conversation this year: a debate about pitcher wins.
Last year, when deGrom was the obvious favorite, there was a lot of hubbub about his record. If he didn’t have a bunch of wins, could he really be the best? Then came a near-unanimous vote that awarded deGrom — and his 10-9 mark — his first Cy Young. He set a record for fewest victories by a starting pitcher who won the award.
This year, deGrom is 10-8. But that is not accompanied by record-related talk of his worthiness.
“Obviously, he set the example last year,” Callaway said Friday afternoon.
“It’s something that has been devalued more and more as we’ve changed the game a little bit and the thinking of the game.”
With the Mets up by three runs after seven, Callaway decided to take out deGrom, who had thrown 96 pitches and admitted he was tired. Then Alonso added a two-run shot.
“He’s our ace for a reason. He absolutely carved tonight,” Alonso said. “It was awesome to play behind. Tonight, when he took the ball, we just had a feeling that no one was going to touch home plate.”