It’s official. Circle June 5 as the date the Mets should be done answering questions about the schedule’s validity or the legitimacy of their NL East throne.
Not only did they hammer out an exhausting four-game split with the Dodgers, everyone’s World Series favorite, in front of 50,000 hostile fans every game, the Mets did it the hard way — dropping the first two, then having to rally for a pair of comeback wins, seizing Sunday’s finale in the 10th inning.
They deserve extra credit for that.
“Hopefully the test is more so at the end of the year,” said J.D. Davis, who delivered Sunday’s 5-4 victory with an RBI double in the 10th. “I think it was maybe more so a quiz.”
Nah. Did the series at Chavez Ravine actually reveal anything about the Mets we didn’t already know? Character, resiliency, a flair for the dramatic. These traits are all part of this team’s DNA, but don’t be fooled. The ’22 Mets aren’t some plucky band of Flushing misfits out to shock the world, a narrative we stumble into occasionally with this franchise.
That’s not who this team is. The ’22 Mets have the best record (37-19) in the National League (and second only to the 39-15 Yankees) for a reason. They’re really good. Period.
“You can see how talented they are,” said Justin Turner, one of those former Mets misfits turned All-Star who’s earned over $105 million and a World Series ring with the Dodgers. “The pitching they have and the lineup they have. They’re a pretty complete ballclub, as are we.”
The Mets and Dodgers are neck-and-neck in the race to spend $300 million this season. How close were the NL’s top two clubs on the field? The Dodgers scored 16 runs during the four-game series, hitting .226 with five homers and a .654 OPS. The Mets totaled 15 runs, batting .213 with six homers and a .658 OPS. On the pitching front, L.A. had a 3.41 ERA and averaged 9.24 strikeouts per nine innings. The Mets posted a 3.09 and 8.23, respectively.
“We’re just as good as them,” Davis said.
Davis wasn’t being cocky. Or showing disrespect. Just being factual. And we’d also suggest that Davis, a Met since 2019, was looking at this from a perspective shaped by his Flushing tenure. It’s not about the Mets measuring up to the Dodgers or Brewers or Yankees anymore. Over 50 games into this season, the Mets aren’t waiting for the knock on the door. They’re the team who knocks.
The Dodgers found that out, experiencing firsthand the Mets’ transformation underway, financed by owner Steve Cohen’s billions and capably guided by Buck Showalter’s baseball IQ. Sunday marked the first time in 15 years the Mets had won a game at Chavez Ravine when trailing after eight innings. But that should hardly be surprising for a team that makes improbable late-inning rallies seem almost routine this season.
Starling Marte joked during the last homestand that the Mets “sometimes like being down, just so we can come back,” words that boomeranged to bite them during the first two losses in L.A. But they also turned out to be prophetic for the subsequent victories, and show the belief that has crystallized throughout this roster.
Confidence is a muscle that gets stronger the more its flexed, and the Mets’ early-season momentum is no longer a small sample size. If there were any fears of a June swoon, battling back against the Dodgers should immediately ease those concerns, and make this West Coast trip feel like less of a monster. It doesn’t get much easier facing the Padres at PETCO Park for the next three games, but the Mets then will enjoy a day off before driving back up to Anaheim for three more against a nosediving Angels team that entered Monday on an 11-game losing streak.
With the Dodgers in the rearview mirror, this SoCal swing doesn’t feel so intimidating anymore. And building up that 10 1/2-game cushion at the trip’s outset — equal to the largest lead at the start of June for any team in NL history — is coming in handy now that Atlanta has sprung to life in the past week. Consider it an insurance policy for a potentially bumpy month ahead.
But the Mets aren’t sweating the schedule, or what awaits them in the second half, a time of year typically fraught with disaster. That’s because Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are on the not-too-distant horizon, and Cohen’s checkbook will give general manager Billy Eppler the flexibility to absorb whatever salaries he needs to as the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaches.
“I’m not getting excited,” said Cohen, who was at Dodger Stadium over the weekend. “I’m trying to stay disciplined, measured, allow it to occur. We’ll see where it goes. The goal is to get into the playoffs. Then we get into the playoffs. Then we’ll see what happens.”
October is a long way off, but the Mets continue to build a convincing case. It’s the rest of the NL that needs to keep up.