Mets players mob J.D. Martinez, center, after his walk-off two-run...

Mets players mob J.D. Martinez, center, after his walk-off two-run home run against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on Thursday, June 13, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Ya gotta be a little deluded to believe.

The Mets have the third-worst record in the National League, and though they were technically only three games out of the final wild-card spot after Friday’s 2-1 win over the Padres, there is a veritable sea of teams ahead of them. They play some of the worst defense in baseball, and the stats sheets tell you they have mediocre hitting and the fifth-worst ERA in the NL.

Yet the last few nights have to give you pause.

Sure, they barely pulled out wins the last two days, but there was a real thrill in the air when the trumpets sounded for Edwin Diaz after his return from the injured list Thursday. He got the win that day, and on Friday, he earned his first save since May 6. He stranded the tying run on third and hit 100 mph, and when the lyrics “back in the New York groove” started blaring over the sound system, it really did feel that way.

Francisco Alvarez returned from the injured list this week (Diaz credited him with the pep talk that spurred him to get the final out Friday). J.D. Martinez hit the first walk-off homer of his career Thursday and drove in both runs with a double Friday.

All told, the Mets are riding a three-game winning streak and have an MLB-leading six walk-off wins this year and the most ninth-inning RBIs of any team in baseball (38).

All of which kind of has to make you wonder if they have a longer type of comeback in them, the kind that saves them from second-half irrelevance.

 

If Diaz can be Diaz and if they can keep finding a way to scratch out victories and if Martinez keeps producing .  .  . maybe?

There’s no doubt it’s a long shot, but Mets fans have got to at least be heartened by some of the changes of late, something Martinez partially attributed to the May 29 team meeting that kicked off a 9-4 stretch.

“The atmosphere” is different recently, Martinez said. “We keep talking about it .  .  . The no-pressure thing. No one is thinking anything about the Mets and have us written off, so it’s no pressure. Let’s just go out there and have fun. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose.”

After their 4-2 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday, Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo had a lengthy postgame discussion at Lindor’s locker that was partially attended by Carlos Mendoza (Nimmo went 2-for-3 Friday but had a .188/.278/.281 slash line from May 13-June 13).

Players have consistently mentioned that they’re learning from each other, and Mendoza hasn’t been shy about shaking things up when necessary. There’s more of a communal air in the clubhouse, and it looks as if it’s engendered trust from the top down.

It helps that Diaz is looking to be in vintage form, of course. And that Alvarez is back there seemingly creating a special type of alchemy with the pitchers. On Friday, that translated into a game that the Mets of a month ago probably would have lost.

Up by one, Diaz allowed a leadoff single, saw pinch runner Jose Azocar steal second and then, with one out, looked as if he had given up a soft game-tying single that instead was converted into an out thanks to an excellent sliding stop by Jeff McNeil. Azocar moved to third and danced up and down the line before Alvarez visited with Diaz, who struck out Jake Cronenworth after falling behind 3-and-1. He set him up with a 99.4-mph fastball and got him swinging on a 91.5-mph slider.

“He’s a great catcher,” Diaz said. “He knows a lot about the game. He studies a lot of the hitters. After two outs, he just came to me and told me, ‘I trust in you. If we walk this guy, let’s get the next guy. Just make your pitch and you’ll be fine.’  ”

Afterward, Mendoza was asked if the Diaz of old is back.

“He’s back,’’ Mendoza responded, “and we’re going to need him.”

Martinez, though not here in 2022, seemed to concur.

With Diaz looking like himself, “it’s a whole different bullpen, honestly, a different team,” Martinez said. “If we can just get him the ball and have him be him, it’s a lot of games we can win with him, you know? . . .  If he comes back and does what he’s doing and is [who he] is, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun little run.”

None of this is going to heal the Mets overnight, and sure, ya gotta be a little deluded to believe. But maybe a little delusion can be a good thing.

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