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

Ride Like the Wind

Three paces that would be nice to keep up:

1) If the Mets go 7-3 fifteen more times (105-45) and they’ll be 112-48 with two games to go — and I probably won’t sweat the final two games too much.

2) If Pete Alonso [1] matches his career total of 109 home runs six more times (654), he’ll pass Barry Bonds.

3) If the starters continue to pitch like a many-armed Jacob deGrom, Jacob deGrom would make a helluva middle reliever once he’s healthy.

When most things are going well, carried away is the way to go, if only in one’s head, if only before the San Francisco Giants — 114-59 in regular-season play since the dawn of 2021 — come to town. They may provide a stiffer test than the Nationals, Phillies and Diamondbacks have to this point. Conversely, the Giants have to play the Mets, who not only overcame a stiff wind Sunday, but threw caution to the wind and lived to tell about it.

Early on, when most everything’s been going well, a couple of not-quites have gotten in the way of presumably unattainable Metsian perfection. There’ve been a few instances of baserunners being aggressive and getting thrown out and we’ve seen some relievers come back out for that extra batter or more and be burned for it.

So how did the Mets succeed Sunday? By running the bases aggressively, and with a one-inning bullpen guy sticking around for two. It all worked.

Pete Alonso, before icing the chilly game at Citi Field with a seventh-inning home run that didn’t acknowledge the wind, ran in a gust of fury from first to home on Eduardo Escobar [2]’s one-out double in the sixth. Pete forced a less than ideal throw from right field and trotted home, while Escobar, to whom speed comes more naturally, took third. Up 1-0 in the sixth, Escobar would move up to second when Dom Smith [3] walked — against authenticated Shea-used lefty Oliver Perez [4] — and score via J.D. Davis [5]’s pinch-single. James McCann [6]’s subsequent flyout, the second out of the inning, came in handy as Smith had zipped to third on Davis’s hit.

Now it’s 3-0 and about to be even more fun, though no runs would be generated in the extension of that sixth-inning good time. The Diamondbacks decided Dom left third too soon, potentially negating McCann’s sac fly. That he didn’t, and almost nobody ever does, didn’t matter. They were gonna put the appeal play on. Ollie stepped off the rubber, and…he’s got J.D. stealing second to contend with.

Except he doesn’t, because his job in that moment is to throw to third to theoretically retroactively nail Dom.

Except he’s distracted by J.D., who Buck Showalter has sent to second precisely to completely distract Perez. Had Perez picked off J.D., he of the five career stolen bases in five major league seasons, so be it, figured Buck. It would have been the third out of the sixth, but the important thing was the appeal play was off the instant Ollie didn’t throw to third, and therefore Smith’s run would count regardless of J.D.’s fate.

As it happened, Dom didn’t leave third too soon.

Also as it happened, J.D. stole second.

One more happening: Ollie got Luis Guillorme for the next out, stranding Davis, but the real happening at the end of an aggressively run inning was Buck made sure to protect that third run, the one Smith scored. That third run for a third out was a trade Buck would make in the time it took Frank Cashen to say yes to swapping Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey for Keith Hernandez

Got all that? Buck did. The Mets did. Ol’ pal Ollie was flustered. The twenty-year veteran and reigning LAMSA [7] or Longest Ago Met Still Active didn’t seem to know what exactly was going on, which was OK, because a) nobody at first glance seemed to understand this baseball version of the tuck rule (something that can’t possibly seem right but is — call it the Buck rule); and b) Buck knew and made sure his players knew exactly what was going on.

The Mets outsmarting the opposition. We could get used to that.

We could also get used to this starting pitching that has carried the Mets away toward their 7-3 record. The combined ERA of everybody who has taken the ball to begin a game is 1.07 through ten games. DeGrom, whose presence may be sorely missed but whose absence hasn’t yet represented a debilitating factor, put up an ERA of 1.08 in fifteen starts last year. It was David Peterson [8]’s turn to give up nothing on Sunday, and he was exactly as miserly as he needed to be. Four-and-a-third innings pitched, no runs allowed. Stingy starting is apparently contagious.

Once the Mets had that 3-0 lead, Chasen Shreve [9], nominally a lefty specialist, was the pitcher of record, having thrown a perfect top of the sixth. Showalter stayed with him for the top of the seventh. Some of those dreaded ups/downs have seemed to go an up too far, as in, “Why is Shreve getting another inning?” turning into “I knew I was right to moan about getting Shreve getting another inning?” Like Joey Cora waving runners along, Buck isn’t deterred by our intermittent bleats of frustration. Shreve pitched a perfect second inning. It may not always work. On Sunday, en route to a 5-0 win [10] — bolstered by Alonso’s two-run homer in the seventh and preserved by shutout frames from Drew Smith and Edwin Diaz plus a clutch two-thirds provided in the fifth by Trevor Williams — it did. Precedent won’t scare off this manager until he’s convinced it proves something.

The Mets’ 7-3 start is valuable in that four more games have been won rather than lost. Just keep going when the eleventh game begins. Easier said than done? We’re 7-3. That also comes off the tongue with ease.