- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Whatever Lies Ahead

Well, so much for the easy part.

Oh my God, Fry, couldn’t you go seven words without being a bringdown?

Honestly, I didn’t mean to do that. Let me zoom out a bit and try that again.

There have been a number of Mets seasons in which a cupcake part of the schedule has beckoned, suggesting a chance to make something of a year that seemed to be slipping away. And there have been a number of those seasons where the cupcake has stuck in the throat. This time, the Mets snoffed down the proffered treat and asked for more: two out of three from the Padres, a sweep of the Pirates, a sweep of the White Sox, two out of three from the Pirates, a four-game sweep of the Marlins. Not so long after the season seemed lost, they’re somehow just half a game out of a wild-card spot.

Has playing a series of reeling opponents helped? No doubt. But they all count, and the Mets haven’t exactly played down to the competition: They’ve harried starters by working deep counts, hunted pitches to hit from vulnerable relievers, gotten top-flight pitching from starters and relievers, and even played some actual solid defense.

Wednesday’s series capper showed off all their strengths, not so long after enumerating the Mets’ strengths made you feel like a dutiful aunt trying to spruce up a shiftless nephew ahead of a wing-and-a-prayer blind date. The Mets rode home runs from Jeff McNeil [1], Michael Conforto [2] and Pete Alonso [3], awakened from his brief post-All-Star hibernation to continue his assault on the single-season club record for homers. They got simultaneously cerebral and aggressive pitching from Steven Matz [4] and solid relief behind him. And they got some sparkling plays from Adeiny Hechavarria [5], Todd Frazier [6] and Alonso.

And they won a game that had threatened to become one of those oh-well affairs, after which you wax philosophical and mumble about winning series. In the seventh, Matz struck out the first two hitters and then surrendered a double to Bryan Holaday [7]. Justin Wilson [8] took over and gave up a single to Martin Prado [9], putting the tying runs on base with Jon Berti [10] at the plate. But Wilson then took Berti apart, changing his eye level with sliders at the knees and going to work at the top of the zone. Three pitches later Berti had been fanned; in the bottom of the inning the Mets homered twice and the game was no longer in doubt.

And you were worried? Pshhh. They had it all the way [11], obviously.

The Mets have ascended to that rare air where you expect them to win and are faintly shocked when fate doesn’t cooperate. Now, such baseball charmed lives never last, and wise fans know it. But they also know that you simply enjoy it while it does. Sooner than you want to believe is possible, everyone will be chasing balls out of the zone and dunkers will be falling in and starters will be trudging off and you’ll want to hurl the remote into the wall because how can it be possible that 25 people have simultaneously forgotten how to play baseball? Sooner than you want to believe, but not today, please. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Or for the rest of the season.

On Friday the Nats come to town, with Stephen Strasburg [12] facing Marcus Stroman [13] and something on the line besides pride. That showdown will mark the start of a brutal stretch of schedule — and no amount of happy talk or fancy writing will make anyone forget that the last brutal stretch of schedule nearly sank the Mets’ season.

Maybe that will happen again and this time the damage won’t be repairable. Or maybe it won’t and we’ll tell stories about how the Mets came together and learned to trust each other and to win. I’ve given up trying to outguess baseball, particularly when the equations involve more teams than you can count on the fingers of one hand and seven weeks more of games.

But I do know this: This hot stretch has dispersed the sour black cloud that had gathered over the season, and I think I’ll still feel that way even if the Mets sink back into the mire from which they’ve extracted themselves. Even in 2019’s valleys they’ve been weirdly compelling, with electric starters and precocious hitters and the promise of what might be; now that they’re at a peak, they’re must-see TV, fun to watch and easy to root for. And isn’t that baseball like it oughta be?

Strasburg-Stroman. Half a game out of a postseason berth. Baseball’s supposed to be fun and sometimes it even is. Rest up for Friday, and all that remains to be written.