The Mets challenge a person’s belief system in a variety of ways. They stretch the boundaries of common sense when it comes to the health status of their roster. Taunt you for buying into the hype. Dare us to brand them underachieving losers before the end of April.
The one thing the Mets never fail at? Defying convention.
We humbly present Saturday’s events in D.C., where general manager Sandy Alderson took a few minutes on a bright, steamy morning — about an hour before Stephen Strasburg’s first pitch — to provide a medical update on the team’s ailing stars. Of greatest concern is Yoenis Cespedes, last seen being helped off the Citi Field turf on Thursday, his face in a twisted grimace.
What we anticipated was a more precise diagnosis of the hamstring strain, and if lucky, maybe a rough timeline for his return. But Alderson didn’t go into much detail — such as giving a Grade 1, 2 or 3 characterization — other than to say the injury is “non-serious” and that tests “didn’t reveal any significant damage.”
Sounds good, right? But if so, did our eyes deceive us Thursday? Cespedes appeared to be in very real, very serious-looking pain, the sort that takes a month to return from. We’re not sure the Mets deserve the benefit of doubt based on their track record in this area, but let’s see how soon Cespedes does return — or whether he hurts himself again because he tried to rush it.
As for Noah Syndergaard’s complaints of biceps tendinitis, the injury that scratched him from Thursday’s start, Alderson confirmed the pitcher’s refusal to subject himself to an MRI, which was an odd stance to take for a supposedly injured player.
“That’s not standard practice,” he said. “But I can’t tie him down and throw him in the tube either.”
What imagery. A dozen or so Mets, led by Alderson, wrestling with the 6-6, 240-pound Syndergaard as some lab tech watches, horrified. As fun as that would be to capture on a cellphone, Syndergaard has the chance to put all the tendinitis talk behind him now that the Mets are on the verge of a sweep after Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Nationals.
Not a typo. You read that correctly. Sweep — as in already having beaten Max Scherzer and Strasburg, back-to-back, at Nationals Park. From where this Mets team was a few days earlier, losers of six straight with an uncertain fate for Syndergaard and Cespedes, there’s no analytic to determine the ego boost these first two wins in the series provided.
Friday night’s 7-5 victory was a matter of survival, with Jacob deGrom striking out 12 in his 112-pitch effort and manager Terry Collins taking the drastic measure of pulling Jeurys Familia, his flailing closer, to lean on Josh Edgin’s small-sample-size mastery of Bryce Harper. It all worked, neatly punctuated by Harper’s 1-2-3 double-play grounder back to the mound.
Knocking off the red-hot Nats for a night wasn’t a total stunner, especially with deGrom pitching. But to do it again with Zack Wheeler facing Strasburg? That would get people back to the TV again.
And that’s precisely how the day unfolded. All that was missing from Michael Conforto’s Yo impression was the canary-yellow sleeve as he slugged a pair of home runs, including an eighth-inning blast off lefthanded reliever Enny Romero. With Collins having no other options for the leadoff spot, Conforto has batted .355 (11-for-31) with five home runs in eight starts atop the lineup. And now that he’s excelled there, it could be time to drop him into the run-producing middle. That’s a hugely positive development as the Mets try to get their groove back.
“We had a feeling this was coming,” Conforto said. “We had faith in ourselves. Things were going bad for a bit, but there’s no panic in here. We had all the confidence in the world we could match up with those guys over there.”
Well, that makes 25 who did, plus Collins, Alderson and the coaches.
There were other encouraging signs, too. Jose Reyes had two more hits, with another home run, and is batting .444 (8-for-18) during a five-game hitting streak that could tempt Collins to put him back at leadoff. Even Familia rebounded from Friday’s shaming for a perfect ninth and earned his first save this season.
“All we did was say hey, look, we’re better than this,” Collins said of the mini-revival. “We’ve got to start pulling for each other. And that’s what they’ve done.”
Just like that, the Mets are asking you to believe again, in a bunch of stuff. Why should we have thought this season would be any different?