The playoffs started Tuesday, J.D. Davis said.
Not the literal postseason, of course. That won’t happen for six weeks, if the Mets play well enough to get there. But the metaphorical playoffs, the virtual playoffs, the de facto playoffs — those started Tuesday night, in the eyes of Davis, who homered in the Mets’ 9-2 win against the Indians.
The win, which was close until the Mets ripped the Cleveland bullpen to turn a nail-biter into a blowout, marked the start of a critical nine-game homestand for the Mets. They have won four out of five games to improve to 65-60, two games out of a National League wild-card spot.
Davis said this stretch is “absolutely” a test. A trio of playoff-caliber teams at Citi Field to face the Mets, who aspire to be a playoff-caliber team and they very well could be.
“The playoffs started today,” Davis said. “We have to have that playoff mentality, that playoff atmosphere that every game counts, especially with the hole we dug ourselves into. I think the elephant in the room is we have a lot of home games, but a lot of games against playoff teams. This is our playoff time. We have to play well.”
Michael Conforto put the Mets up with a two-run homer off Cleveland righthander Shane Bieber in the sixth. They piled on with five runs in their final two turns at-bat, which pleased manager Mickey Callaway, who was able to stay away from late-inning relievers Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz.
“Now we’re set up in a better situation [Wednesday] because our hitters are relentless,” Callaway said. “You can pop the two-run homer and sit back and go, ‘OK, bullpen, there you go.’ They don’t do that. They score late. They score often. And that takes the pressure off.”
Steven Matz lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned). Cleveland got him for a run in the second (a Jason Kipnis homer into the upper deck in right) and the fourth (Kipnis RBI single after Yasiel Puig reached on Todd Frazier’s fielding error). He has a 2.81 ERA in seven starts in the second half.
The Indians’ Bieber, the MVP of the All-Star Game in Cleveland last month, allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings. He struck out seven, walked one and yielded four hits — including a pair of long balls that produced all of the Mets’ runs against him.
In the second, Davis launched a two-run home run to straightaway center. It was his first at-bat back in the lineup after being limited to pinch-hit duties Saturday and Sunday because of a tight right calf.
In the sixth, the Mets capitalized on a brutal missed catch by leftfielder Oscar Mercado with a pair of unearned runs. Joe Panik wound up on second after the routine pop-up became a two-base error, the ball falling into and popping out of Mercado’s glove. That led to Conforto getting a chance with two outs, and he sent a fly ball into the Mets’ bullpen in rightfield. Puig, Cleveland's rightfielder, barely moved on the play.
That was a satisfying sequence for Conforto, who struck out in his first two at-bats against Bieber and just missed a homer on the foul ball down the leftfield line moments before his actual homer. He is up to 27 long balls, one shy of his career-high total from last year.
“We’ve had a feeling over this run that we’ve been on that we might not get them the first time through the order, but our lineup has been so good, our hitters have been able to figure out ways to get on base, figure out ways to get runs in,” Conforto said. “We just have that feeling that eventually we’re going to get [to] whoever is on the mound.”