MILWAUKEE — Step one, as they collectively called it, is done. The Mets are going to the playoffs. They guaranteed as much with more than two weeks remaining in the regular season by virtue of blowing away the clubs in the wild-card picture, earning that bit of uncertainty heading into a particularly stressful stretch.
But step two is going to be much more difficult. The Mets got another day closer to winning the NL East by beating the Brewers again Tuesday, 7-5, scoring all of their runs on two swings — Pete Alonso’s three-run homer and Francisco Lindor’s grand slam.
Their lead over second-place Atlanta, which nabbed a close win over Washington, remained at one game. Because Milwaukee lost, Atlanta clinched a postseason berth, too.
The Mets, who at 95-55 are 40 games above .500 for the first time since 1988, have a dozen games to go.
“That’s been our goal from Day 1,” manager Buck Showalter said of winning the division. “We’re going to keep driving and see where it takes us.”
Alonso said: “You have two great teams. But this is really fun because you get to find out what you’re made out of.”
This time, the Mets were made of the right stuff — eventually. They sleepwalked into the sixth inning, down 4-0, but got a wake-up call via Alonso’s blast. That trimmed the deficit to one. An inning later, Lindor’s grand slam gave the Mets a sudden lead. Edwin Diaz recorded the final four outs to pick up just his second save of the month.
The Mets totaled four hits. The Brewers had 11.
“Pete got a lot of positive vibe back to the game for us,” Showalter said. “We made use of the hits we had.”
Lindor echoed: “We were kind of playing a little stale, and all of a sudden we spiked up. Whenever Pete comes up big like that, it gives a huge boost to the offense, the pitching staff, everybody.”
And Alonso: “I’m just really pleased that I was able to capitalize on a slider in the middle of the plate.”
Their season totals: Alonso has 37 homers and a career-high 121 RBIs — just three shy of the franchise single-season record of 124, accomplished by Mike Piazza in 1999 and David Wright in 2008.
Lindor has 25 homers and a career-high 99 RBIs.
“Having 220 RBIs between us two, that means there’s a lot of guys in front of us,” Lindor said. “They’re making it easier for us.”
They received help this time from Milwaukee (78-70), which deployed a parade of relievers instead of a traditional starter. The game fell apart when they went to their late-and-close arms.
Brad Boxberger, who entered with one out in the sixth, hit Mark Canha with a pitch to start the rally that ended with Alonso’s game-changing swing. Taylor Rogers, who entered with one out in the seventh, walked his first three batters — including the light-hitting Darin Ruf and James McCann. That set up Lindor’s swing at a first-pitch fastball.
Since coming to the Brewers in the trade deadline deal that sent Josh Hader to the Padres, Rogers has a 6.52 ERA.
Milwaukee nearly knocked out Carlos Carrasco in the second inning, but he settled in to last two more. He wound up allowing three earned runs in four frames.
That marked the continuation of a perhaps unsurprising season-long trend in which he has struggled against good teams but excelled against lesser ones.
In 11 starts against clubs that now can be identified as playoff contenders, Carrasco has a 6.71 ERA.
In 16 starts against everyone else, Carrasco has a 2.14 ERA.
“To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of command of my pitches,” said Carrasco, adding that he felt fatigued. “I can’t wait to pitch in the next game.”