Just when you think the Mets couldn’t possibly be any more screwed, they go and do something like this.
And totally redeem themselves!
Who would’ve thought a weekend visit to tranquil Pittsburgh would produce enough angst to fill the entire run of “Freaks and Geeks”? Anyone following this Mets team, that’s who. So when Michael Conforto cranked a two-run, ninth-inning homer to vault his club to a comeback, 7-6 victory over the Pirates on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park, it didn’t shock, simply because it matched this nutty team’s entertaining narrative:
These Mets get knocked down. But so far, aided in no small part by underwhelming competition, they get up again.
“We show up every single day to win. You can see that in the way we continue to fight no matter what the situation is,” Conforto said. “We’re going to continue to fight. It’s not so much about who we’re playing. It’s really just the attitude that we bring every single day.”
Look, maybe a more able opponent than these last-place Pirates would’ve stepped on the Mets’ necks after building a 6-0 first-inning lead, propelled by a Taijuan Walker goof that allowed three runs to score on a Kevin Newman swinging bunt — truly one of the least sane plays you’ll ever see in a big league game — and punctuated by the normally placid Luis Rojas metamorphosing into Billy Martin as he (wrongly) challenged the (correct) call by home-plate umpire Jeremy Riggs, getting ejected, bumping Riggs and requiring three of his coaches to restrain him. On the other hand, the Bucs appeared plenty able during this odd, seven-game series, before and after the All-Star break, winning four games and overcoming a 6-0 deficit of their own on Saturday night, Jacob Stallings’ walk-off grand slam against Edwin Diaz putting them in position for the Sunday home sweep.
Whether it was Rojas firing up his guys with his tirade, or folksy Aaron Loup announcing in the dugout, “We might as well have some fun while we’re here instead of being miserable for the next six, seven games,” or a mere market correction, the Mets indeed had plenty of fun in mounting what might be their best win of the year, in part because of the timing: Had they lost, the Phillies, winning both ends of a de facto doubleheader against the Marlins, would’ve closed to within one game (two in the loss column) atop the National League East. Between such a result and the pregame disclosure that Jacob deGrom, unable to throw without forearm discomfort, would go to the injured list, this would’ve gone down as the season’s worst day.
The offensive heroics and the bullpen’s 8 ²/₃ shutout innings — Loup, memorably, escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth with three straight strikeouts — don’t magically heal deGrom, whose status obviously remains of vital importance. With the trade deadline sitting at July 30, and with the Mets’ offense showing signs of life, it sure seems like the priority must be to add starting pitching. Whether the severity of deGrom’s ailment should further calibrate their target — does the idea of giving up good prospects for a Jose Berrios become less appetizing if you’re not sure whether you’ll have deGrom for October — becomes one more variable in play.
All of these are better issues for the Mets to contemplate than a second-half-opening stomping by the Pirates. With Sunday’s effort, they reminded themselves of what they’ve endured and what they can be.
“I’m very proud of the group,” Rojas said. “This is another good sign of how good of a team we are.”
They earned the right to fly to Cincinnati with that mindset, no matter that Jared Eickhoff will start Monday night and “TBA” Tuesday. They are a mess in progress, still worthy of our attention no matter how much angst they leak en route to wherever exactly they’re headed.