Amid this charmed season, the Mets have developed a certain routine, always deployed carefully but begrudgingly: Watch a player wince or limp, remove him from the game, send him for treatment and tests and more treatment, see how he feels the next day.
That process yields at least one news cycle, causes the organization and the fan base to hold their collective breath and sometimes triggers thoughts that, oh, no, here is where it all goes wrong, the beginning of the end.
Except it’s never the beginning of the end. Or hasn’t been yet. Improbably and incredibly, the story almost always has turned out the same when it comes to the health of the Mets’ hitters: That player is basically fine. They say he has a minor strain or sprain or just a bruise or some other euphemism that indicates he can tough it out.
Consider it a part of the larger mosaic of the 2022 Mets, all they have done well and all that has broken their way, leading to the second-best record in franchise history through this many games — now 74-40 after a Jacob deGrom-led 1-0 victory over the Phillies on Saturday. But if they are going to match the feats of the only predecessor ahead of them, that 1986 club, they are going to need lots more of this: Great fortune keeping their lineup together.
“Now that you’ve totally jinxed us . . . ” Buck Showalter said, mostly not joking.
This all played out again — twice — on Friday and Saturday. It turned out that Jeff McNeil, with two stitches keeping closed the cut on his right (throwing) thumb, was able to slot immediately back into the lineup, going 1-for-2 with a walk while batting eighth for some reason. And the MRI of Eduardo Escobar’s tight left side showed “nothing there that should be long-term,” Showalter said. He was on the bench, but that would’ve been the case anyway with a righthander (Aaron Nola) on the mound.
Neither guy was hurt badly enough to require a trip to the injured list — which, by the way, features zero Mets position players.
Similar sequences have occurred repeatedly in recent months, with catcher James McCann, who missed swaths of the season because of a broken hand and a strained oblique, the notable exception.
Remember Brandon Nimmo’s sprained wrist that required a cortisone shot in late May? He recently surpassed the 100-game mark for just the second time in his career. Francisco Lindor’s fractured middle fingertip when he got it caught in a hotel door? That caused him to miss one game, still his only absence on the year. And that day in San Diego when Pete Alonso (hit by a pitch on his hand) and Starling Marte (quadriceps tightness) were cause for concern? They were all good shortly thereafter. And those times in which McNeil’s troublesome legs were making trouble?
Lots of scares, not so many injuries, at most costing players a few days here, a few days there. For all of their natural talent, maybe these Mets have an element of grit to them, too.
“I have to give the credit to the players,” Showalter said. “They don’t want to disappoint each other.”
That is not to discount the extensive behind-the-scenes work that goes into ensuring they compete at peak levels. In addition to athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches, the Mets’ so-called performance staff includes multiple sports scientists, a massage therapist and a dietitian.
Showalter appreciates them but, well, staying on the field is sort of a crapshoot, he said.
“Our performance people are staying on top of a lot of things with off days and trying to get ahead of things,” he said. “People get kind of smug and think they’ve got some formula that keeps people healthy. ‘Oh, man, if we do this, nobody else will get hurt.’ Spare yourself. That ain’t the case.”
So the Mets have been fortunate — not lucky, which implies their efforts are irrelevant, but fortunate. And they will need to continue to be for the next two-plus months, because they don’t nearly have the depth to withstand the lengthy loss of Lindor or Alonso, Nimmo or Marte or others.
Their fate can change in a hurry, as they got a glimpse of again Friday, right before they had their fears assuaged again Saturday.
“You don’t chuckle, but you want to go, ‘Really?’ ” Showalter said of two close calls in quick succession. “If you think you’ve got a formula for staying healthy — everybody is trying to figure out that formula.”