The New York Mets are the best team in baseball. With their 4-1 victory over the Marlins last night, they are tied with the Angels for the most wins in the league with 10, though the fighting Mike Trouts are 10-3, while New York is 10-1. So that means the Mets have a better winning percentage, which means they are the best team in baseball.
Of course, it is literally two weeks into the season, but something is happening with the Mets right now and I’m not too sure what it is.
This is the best start to a season in franchise history. They’ve won eight consecutive games. Of their 10 wins, six of them have been come-from-behind wins. They just went on a 6-0 road trip across two cities —the first time they’ve swept their first road trip of the season, and just the second time in their history they’ve swept a road trip of six or more games. In 1986 — you know, the year they won 108 games and a World Series — they famously jumped out to a 20-4 start, which doesn’t seem completely out of the realm of possibility for this 2018 team, especially given the quality of teams they’re facing over the next few weeks.
I really don’t know what is happening.
And last night, in particular, was the type of game that championship teams tend to win. With the Mets needing a fifth starter for the first time this season, Zack Wheeler, who was demoted to the minor leagues to start the year, took the mound with his MLB roster spot practically hanging in the balance. If he pitched poorly, he would undoubtedly return to the minor leagues whenever Jason Vargas is ready to come off the DL. If he pitched well, he could earn himself a spot back in the regular rotation and force the Mets to demote someone else.
And boy, did he make a strong case for the latter last night. Sporting some new mechanics, Wheeler threw the best game that any Mets starting pitcher has thrown this year. He made a mistake to Miguel Rojas in the first inning that resulted in a solo homer, but was totally dominant after that. He pitched seven innings in total, only allowing two more baserunners after the home run, and retiring his final 16 batters in a row. He struck out seven and walked only one. Perhaps most notably, Wheeler only threw 83 pitches through his seven innings, and the parts of his game that he has struggled with in the past—command, efficiency, putting hitters away—were all non-issues last night.
However, Wheeler left the game with the team trailing 1-0. In fact, the Mets had not only not scored a run for Wheeler, they had not even gotten a hit off Marlins starter Jarlin Garcia through six innings.
Sidenote: It appears as though Jarlin Garcia’s nickname is “Jarlin the Marlin,” which, damn it, is awesome.
It was looking like another frustrating game at Marlins Park where the Mets are somehow stifled by a no-name Marlins starter. But Don Mattingly pulled Garcia for some reason at 78 pitches, despite him not allowing a hit through six. So Miami went to their bullpen, and Drew Steckenreider was tasked with keeping the no-hitter in tact in the seventh. He retired the first two, but then Todd Frazier finally broke through in with a single to left field, ending the no-no.
But the Mets couldn’t push him across, so Miami held the 1-0 lead going to the eighth. Kevin Plawecki led off the eighth for the Mets, and got drilled in the hand with a pitch. Two batters later, Michael Conforto pinch-hit for Juan Lagares, and ripped a double down the right field line that moved Plawecki to third. That brought up the pitcher’s spot in the order, and with a left-hander on the mound, Mickey Callaway basically had two remaining options off his bench: Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes. The last two seasons, Gonzalez has had a 29 wRC+ and a 66 wRC+ against lefties, respectively. He has sat the last two games because he obviously needs to be shielded against left-handed pitching at all costs. Meanwhile, Reyes had a 122 wRC+ and a 222 wRC+ against lefties the last two years, respectively.
Callaway went with Gonzalez.
And it paid off.
The veteran first baseman came through, flaring a hit up the middle, scoring both runs. And just like that, the Mets had gone from being hopeless on offense the entire game to owning a 2-1 lead within the span of a few batters. Then, after Asdrubal Cabrera dunked one in to right field for a hit, Wilmer Flores added insurance on a ground-rule double over the head of the left fielder, scoring Gonzalez from third. The final tally of the inning came on a sac fly by Frazier that scored Cabrera. Suddenly, the Mets had a 4-1 lead.
Robert Gsellman came on in the eighth and once again looked like a relief ace, striking out the side. Jerry Blevins started the ninth to get the left-handed Derek Dietrich, and AJ Ramos came in after him and closed it out by getting a ground ball double play to end it, and seal the 4-1 victory.
It didn’t look like the Mets were supposed to win; they looked terrible most of the game. But then they didn’t look terrible. They got clutch hits. Unconventional managerial moves paid off. And they won. Again.
Folks, this is happening. I don’t know how, but it is happening. Perhaps, though, we could use a tale of caution to go with our morning cup of unbridled optimism, so I’ll offer this little nugget: In April of 2015, the Mets had an 11-game winning streak and got out to a similarly-impressive 13-3 start. It only took them until June 24 of that season to drop back down below .500. Similarly, in April 2016, the Mets had another eight-game winning streak. They dropped below .500 multiple times throughout August that season.
Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that both of those teams were still able to reach the postseason, largely because of the cushion they built in April which helped sustain them through those grueling summer months.
But it is early. This start guarantees nothing, and I think we all know that; I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. But right now, the Mets look like a really fun, complete team. We have no idea how much longer this will last, but you should enjoy it while it does.
OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY
Travis d’Arnaud was diagnosed with a torn UCL, and placed on the diasbled list. Tomas Nido was recalled from Double-A Binghamton to take his spot. It’s a rough blow for d’Arnaud, who has struggled with injuries his entire career, and if surgery is necessary, his season would be over. d’Arnaud only has one more year of control left and will likely be quite pricey in his third year of arbitration next year, so it’s worth wondering if we’ll even see him in a Mets uniform again.
In his absence, Kevin Plawecki will get most of the starts for the time being, which is why it’s fantastic news that x-rays on his hand came back negative after being hit in the hand by a 100 mph pitch last night. Plawecki ran the bases but exited the game, and can now use today’s off-day to rest up. With d’Arnaud down, any major injury to Plawecki would’ve caused a serious situation behind the plate for the Mets.
The Best Team in Baseball is off today, but they resume action tomorrow night, when they return home to begin their three-game tilt with the Milwaukee Brewers. Steven Matz takes on Zach Davies at 7:10 p.m.
Photo credit: Steve Mitchell – USA Today Sports