At the halfway point of this season, which do you think was more likely: That the Mets would be playing meaningful games in September or that Todd Frazier would be hitting big home runs and driving in big runs for the Mets in meaningful games in September?
Both are happening. On Wednesday night, Frazier hit two home runs in the first three innings as the Mets raced out to a 7-0 lead against the Diamondbacks, one of their competitors for the NL’s second wild-card berth, en route to a 9-0 victory.
That came a night after Frazier drove in all of the Mets’ runs in a 3-2 win over Arizona.
The Mets, seemingly on their way out of the playoff picture for good after a pair of weekend losses against the Phillies, once again have clawed their way right back into true wild-card relevance with their third straight victory.
The Mets leapfrogged over the Diamondbacks, tied the Phillies and are breathing heavily on the necks of the Brewers. If the Mets can pass Philadelphia and Milwaukee, then there’s one team between the Mets and a wild-card berth: the Cubs.
Then, the next step? The Oct. 1 NL wild-card game in Washington against the Nationals (unless the Mets somehow pass them, too, and take the top spot.)
Does it all seem unlikely? Sure, but so did the idea of Frazier hauling out the power bat after he was benched (sorry, rested) on Sunday and Monday.
Manager Mickey Callaway put the free-agent-to-be back in the lineup Tuesday. Frazier contributed a two-run double in the second inning and an RBI double in the fourth.
On Wednesday, Frazier clubbed a two-run homer in the first off Robbie Ray to give the Mets a 4-0 lead. Brandon Nimmo followed with a homer to close out a five-run first.
But the Mets weren’t done. Jeff McNeil hit a pair, and Frazier went deep to right-center in the third to give him 20 on the season. That’s two more than he hit in 2018. It’s also not a bad total for a 33-year-old who always seems to be one bad stretch away from getting benched (sorry, rested).
Frazier is in that in-between spot in which he may be too expensive for a big contract next season, but is too proud to take a minor-league deal. A lot of players in Frazier’s age group and skill level are getting squeezed out in baseball these days, and there’s no guarantee suitors will be lining up for his services in 2020 at anything but a bargain price.
Frazier knows this. He knows he won’t be back with the Mets next season and even joked after the game about facing Pete Alonso as an opponent in 2020.
“I hope the best for him,” Frazier said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me next year, so I hope for the best until we play him. Whatever happens.”
When their season unexpectedly turned around, the Mets were glad they still had Frazier for the been-there, done-that vibe he brings to a youngish clubhouse.
He is bringing perspective to the Mets’ frantic playoff chase, as when he said on Tuesday: “Right now, we’re in that hope phase, because that’s what we really have to do. If we win a game, we’ve got to hope the other team loses, and it’s a really tough situation to be in. We win and hopefully everything will take care of itself after that, because there’s nothing else we can do. We can’t play for the other team.”
At the moment, the “other team” is the Cubs, who played in San Diego late Wednesday night. On Tuesday, the Cubs lost, 9-8, in 10 innings against the Padres in a game that didn’t end until almost 2 a.m. in New York.
That result allowed the Mets to enter Wednesday three games behind Chicago. Scoreboard watching can be fun this time of year, but apparently Callaway wasn’t obsessed with finding out what the Cubs did late on Tuesday.
“I did [watch] for a little bit,” Callaway said. “Then went to sleep and woke up and saw what happened.”
Maybe it’s best if the Mets don’t wake up right now.