You tell me Buck Showalter couldn’t return to a major league for three years because team owners and new-age front office staff thought the former school principal would demand too much authority. ?
Oh my gracious God.
The culture shift in Queens has been as dramatic as the Mets’ record turnaround from 77-85 in 2021 to 69-39 (and counting) this year, after their 8-5, 6-2 double sweep of the Braves on Saturday which extended their division lead to 5½ games… and with Jacob deGrom on Sunday for the final of this five-game set, in which the home side won three of the first four.
Last year fans and players gave each other thumbs down gestures. There’s a mutual love that flows from the stands to the field and back again this year, with the Mets’ 30 games above .500 for the first time since 2006.
“That’s what you play the game for,” Max Scherzer said after seven shutout innings of bravery in Game 2 in which he struck out 11 while throwing a season-high 108 shots. “We’re just playing good baseball right now.”
The Mets play an old-school style in which they attack the game while blending enough swagger and new-era style to appeal to all generations, those who have been here since Hobie Landrith hit a two-run home run from 257 feet. on the right field line in the Polo Grounds with a man and two man in the ninth inning to beat Warren Spahn in April 1962 and those who signed when Scherzer signed last December.
They play hardball, like Pete Alonso did by going hard at second base to break a double play in the third inning of the nightcap. This commotion led to a throwing error by Dansby Swanson which resulted in the third inning of the game. It was Alonso who then came on strong on Travis d’Arnaud and beat third baseman Austin Riley’s throw to the plate to make it 4-0.
“Donnie was a guy who didn’t run well but was a great base runner,” Showalter said, referring to Don Mattingly. “Just because you’re not going to win a sprint contest doesn’t mean you can’t be a good baserunner.
“He takes a lot of pride in it.”
They are prepared and bold, the way Luis Guillorme was leading in round five of Game 2. The Braves, trailing 3-0, had runners at first and third with one out. The infield was back when Ehire Adrianza hit a ground fly in second. Rather than take the easy out and concede a run, Guillorme whipped an 88mph strike to Tomas Nido, who put a neat tag on Arnaud’s slip to keep Atlanta off the board.
He’s opportunistic, taking advantage of both forced and unforced opposition errors like they’ve done on both ends of this one. Francisco Lindor, so much more comfortable and so much more dynamic in his second year in New York, was on first base with two outs in the third inning of Game 1 with his team holding a 2-0 lead, when the pitch Jake Odorizzi navigated into foul territory, allowing Lindor to take second base.
Moments later, Lindor crossed the plate on Jeff McNeil’s RBI single to right field and the Mets led 3-0. en route to an 8-5 victory. No small games in this game. No small players in this team.
The Mets can run, they can hit and they can throw. They have scored the third-most points in the NL, trailing only the past two World Series winners, the Dodgers and Braves. They are third in the league in batting average, second in on-base percentage and fourth in OPS. Their pitching staff is second in the ERA behind the Dodgers staff.
The bullpen was depleted at the start of Game 2. Edwin Diaz was unavailable after being forced to take over in Game 1 after the Braves scored three runs in the ninth inning. But Scherzer, as usual, took care of it, ending his outing in style by removing the side in the seventh.
“Going seven is my job,” said Scherzer, 9-2 with a 1.98 ERA. “I’m proud of that.”
On Sunday, deGrom will make his first home start since July 7, 2021. There are still four games between these teams to come, in Atlanta starting August 15. If the ifs and buts were candy and nuts and all that, but the Mets are in a prime position to claim the division title permanently.
Remember this. The first place team will get a first round bye. The runner-up will get a best-of-three first round, likely against the Padres.
Other than asking: what the hell were all those other teams thinking for the last three years when Showalter was available?