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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

All of a sudden, Mets are playoff contenders

Pete Alonso lines a home run down the

Pete Alonso lines a home run down the leftfield line to give the Mets the go-ahead run in their 5-4 victory in the second game of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, at Citi Field.   Credit: Jim McIsaac

The noise, the emotion, just the energy swirling around the Mets right now.

The winning.

It’s all real. Every decibel, every home run, every shutdown inning. All you had to do was be a witness to Monday’s doubleheader sweep of the Marlins at Citi Field. There was no faking that.

Say what you want about the weak competition lately, the soft schedule that teed up the White Sox, Pirates and Marlins over the past week. But this comes down to the Mets beating the teams on the field, and they weren’t doing that before the All-Star break, regardless of who they were.

The Mets have earned their way back into the wild-card hunt, and they’re legitimate playoff contenders now. Beating the Marlins twice Monday, by the scores of 6-2 and 5-4, has them on a 17-6 roll since the break. They also moved over .500 (57-56) for the first time since May 2. And if that looks like forever, it felt like an eternity — for the Mets and for their painfully loyal Flushing fandom.

“It’s been tough,” said Pete Alonso, whose laser-beam homer snaked inside the leftfield foul pole for the Game 2 winner. “But right now, anything can happen. We’re still clawing. Our work’s not done. We really have to bear down.”

Leave it to Alonso, who wears LGM stitched on his cleats and appealed to the fans last week to stick with the Mets, to put the indelible stamp on the comeback. Citi Field roared for his trot around the bases. That seventh inning was the show-stopper, as J.D. Davis, Michael Conforto and Alonso all went deep to shock the Marlins.

Conforto’s tying homer was the true spectacle. He turned on an inside pitch and nearly cleared the Coca-Cola Corner in rightfield, sending the 116-foot-high, 440-foot rainbow (according to Statcast) to a place few baseballs ever visit.

“That was majestic,” Alonso said. “That was awesome.”

The fans had barely sat back down before Alonso ripped his go-ahead shot, No. 35 on the season. Only Mark McGwire (40) and Cody Bellinger (36) have more homers through their first 112 games, but to this point of Alonso’s young career, none carried more meaning.

As for Monday’s sweep, it’s still only August. But to see the fans respond like that, merely for the Mets to finally climb over .500, it gives you an idea of just how frustrated people had been by the first 3 1⁄2 months of this season.

Everyone had been waiting for a night like this, for a chance to get excited about the Mets again — and that includes the crew wearing the blue-and-orange uniforms.

“We’re staying focused on our goal,” Mickey Callaway said. “I don’t think the guys ever wavered on that. We’re getting closer. But we still have a long way to go.”

Callaway’s right, though. The Mets are coming fast. They are within 2 1⁄2 games of a wild-card spot, basically guaranteeing that these next two months will be meaningful.

What the Mets have done, however, already is memorable. At first, we thought becoming relevant again would be a significant accomplishment. But the Mets easily achieved that, in short order, and now have their sights set on their first playoff berth since 2016.

The primary reason for that is the one that’s always hyped but rarely materializes — the dazzling potential of the starting staff. After taking most of the season’s first half off, that group is showing up, and the rotation has been reinforced by the pre-deadline trade for Marcus Stroman, the former Patchogue-Medford star.

After Jacob deGrom earned the win in Monday’s opener — trimming his ERA to 2.77 — the rotation improved to 12-3 with a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star break. The Mets’ starters have thrown at least seven innings in 11 of their 23 second-half games, the most in the majors since the break. Overall, their rotation leads the NL with 35 starts of at least seven innings.

“We want to do something special,” Alonso said.

It’s undeniable. The Mets already are.

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