Mets manager Carlos Mendoza and Mookie Wilson before a game...

Mets manager Carlos Mendoza and Mookie Wilson before a game against the Pirates at Citi Field on Monday. Credit: Ed Murray

Carlos Mendoza’s opening week as Mets manager was high-octane, premium-grade nightmare fuel. As 0-5 starts go, it looked even worse. To top it off, Mendoza’s crew had to endure a 13-inning hitless skid before finally earning the team’s first victory — in the second game of an April 4 rain-rescheduled doubleheader, no less.

Not an ideal scenario for a rookie manager, and you can multiply it times 10 when Flushing is part of the equation. We’ve always described the Mets’ gig as the toughest in baseball, taking into consideration the franchise’s long history of laugh-track futility combined with the scrutiny of the nation’s biggest media market.

The negative vibes get very loud very quickly over on Seaver Way (full disclosure: my profession isn’t exactly blameless). And it didn’t take people very long to wonder if Mendoza was the right man for the job (admit it: the thought entered your mind).

But that comes with the territory in New York. Fortunately for Mendoza, he’s familiar with that part, having jumped over from the Bronx, and his previous experience in pinstripes helped him keep a steady hand on the wheel during this month’s early turbulence.

Now check out Mendoza’s Mets. They’re all the way back to .500 (8-8) for the first time since June 4 last season (30-30) after Monday’s 6-3 comeback victory over the Pirates at Citi Field. Pinch hitter DJ Stewart delivered a tying two-run double in the sixth inning, and when Mendoza stuck with the lefty slugger against Aroldis Chapman in the eighth, he drew a one-out walk that fueled the icing three-run rally.

More Mendoza magic? Digging out of the early April hole required more than just a few Mets with shovels. It takes the right attitude, too.

Stewart credited the manager for helping him relax during the tough times — “Mendy tells me every day to smile,” he said — and the resilience of these Mets is showing.


“There’s so much negativity in the world,” Stewart said. “You need positivity. I think Mendy’s done a heck of a job with that. And that’s why we’re here right now.”

When I asked Mendoza before Monday’s game about his approach during that first-week calamity, he emphasized the importance of being the same guy amid the storm.“You have to stay consistent,” he said.

Sounds basic. But the temptation to overreact is real, especially when you’re new to the job, trying to find your voice in the manager’s chair. Instead, the Mets’ clubhouse saw the same Mendoza who built those relationships in spring training, trusted their ability and remained confident that it soon would yield results.

His reward? The Mets have rallied to win eight of their last 11, among the best records in the majors during that stretch, including two straight in their last at-bat. They’ve also scored 30 runs in the eighth inning or later, the most in MLB.

“We never quit,” said Monday’s starter, Adrian Houser.

That’s no small feat, clawing back from their ugly 0-5 tumble, especially against some of baseball’s hottest teams (Atlanta, the Reds, the Royals, the Pirates).

When I asked Brandon Nimmo about the Mets’ rapid rebound and what it meant to be closing fast on .500, the reason for the club’s reversal came through in his answer.

“I didn’t even know we were at .500,” Nimmo said Monday afternoon. “I had no clue. The way I look at is, OK, we’re facing Martin Perez today, and this is what we need to do to try and win today’s game. If we do that, if we just focus on that one bit at a time, then we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the year .  .  . It’s just like I said last year, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You have to take care of today first.”

Nimmo mentioned that players talked among themselves regarding the team’s early struggles, whether it was in the hitters’ meetings or on bus rides or just hanging in the clubhouse. On some occasions, Mendoza would check in with them individually, but there were no closed-door group sessions. Nothing that would suggest the Mets had a growing crisis on their hands. It was important to convey just the opposite.

“Honestly, I don’t like team meetings,” Mendoza said. “I like one-on-one conversations. I’m sure there will be times when I need to get the team together and say something, but I didn’t feel like after five games it was the right thing to do.”

For Mendoza, it’s more about staying calm amid the storm swirling outside. He was paying attention during his Yankees days as bench coach, when even the winning seasons weren’t enough to quiet the noise, so he realizes it’s always going to be there regardless.

Better to just make sure his team attacks each day the same way, and eventually, in this case, the players will shine through.

Entering Monday, the Mets had scored 53 runs in their last eight games, hitting .311 with 11 homers and an .853 OPS. Compare that to the previous seven games, when they scored 16 runs, batting .167 with six homers and a .536 OPS. The messaging got through.

“It wasn’t a time to panic,” Nimmo said. “Let’s see where we are in a week or two.”

By Monday night, the Mets were in a much better spot, and that was enough. Leave the hyperbole to us. We’ll be the ones to say they saved their season.


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