NEW YORK — Heading into Game 2 of the National League wild-card series, the Mets they reminded themselves who they are: the Mets. At one time this designation may have brought contempt. But now he pointed to a 101-win team comprised of a starting rotation that struck out batters more often than any other (9.42 per nine innings), the best closer in the sport (Edwin Díaz, whose 50.2% in hits tied for best in history, at least 60 innings) and a lineup that finished second in the NL in on-base percentage (.332, one unit behind Dodgers).
So when they told each other to play like the Mets, that meant playing with confidence. And it meant victory.
They brought it up in hitters’ meetings, in the clubhouse, in the dugout.
“It was just really good ball talk between friends,” first baseman Pete Alonso said.
So in the wake of Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Padres To force a winner-takes-all Game 3, they had two things to celebrate: that they had won and that they had done it like they had all season.
“We tried to play like us,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “It’s just baseball. We have good days. We have bad days. We try to eliminate as many bad days as possible and try to have more good days. We played a lot like the Mets today. We put the ball in play. We’re running the bases right. We play good defense. We fly. We stay together and win together.”
Indeed, ace Jacob deGrom struggled with his arsenal, but he finished six innings of two-run ball, the last few innings mostly off-speed stuff as he lost faith in his triple-digit fastball. Díaz entered the seventh inning and recorded five strikeouts. And perhaps most encouraging of all, hitters hit.
It wasn’t at all clear early in the game that this would happen. Lindor hit a solo home run in the first, but the Mets put six men on base in the first three innings and didn’t bring any of them home. In Game 1, they had gone 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and were desperate to avoid a similar performance. Still, they tried to stay patient: A night after Yu Darvish dazzled, Blake Snell mostly pinch hit, striking out nine batters and walking six in 3 ⅓ innings.
“It’s tough on a night like tonight where you know how much it means moving into tomorrow,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s so easy to get away. It takes a lot of discipline because you want to score runs and you want to give Jake something to work with. It’s just not in a competitive person or athlete where sometimes less is more. This is difficult to do. They showed a lot of discipline tonight.”
After a couple of short wins—a single by Brandon Nimmo with runners on first and second in the fourth to score and chase Snell. a solo shot by Alonso in the fifth – they finally started to see the results of their approach in the seventh.
Facing lefty Adrian Morejon, Lindor made it 3–2 and then singled. Alonso made a 3-2 count and then walked. Left fielder Mark Canha made a 3–2 count and then walked. Second baseman Jeff McNeil only made it 2–0 before lining a fastball to right field to score two. As he fell to second base, he exuberantly pointed to the dugout.
“These are my boys!” he explained later.
Most of his guys don’t have playoff experience. Only deGrom, Nimmo and reliever Seth Lugo remain from the last Mets team to make it to October. Of the inductions, only Lindor, pinch runner Terrance Gore and Game 1 starter Max Scherzer have topped the division series.
On Saturday afternoon, Game 3 starter Chris Bassitt, who has been in the 2020 playoffs, explained what he and other veterans have been stressing: The postseason is different.
“Anyone who says no is a liar, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “I’ve told a lot of guys on the team that haven’t been to the playoffs, listen, whoever can just be themselves the most, I think has the biggest advantage. The moment is already huge. The adrenaline is already there—you don’t need the Red Bulls anymore. You’re good. Yes, anyone who can just be themselves and not – the crowd will already be crazy. You can’t ride the crowd. You just have to be yourself, and that’s it. I think whoever can make the moment not as big as it is will have an advantage there.”
He added, “We’ve got Jake going tonight. We don’t need anyone more than Jake. Just Jake be Jake. And apparently one through nine are the same thing. We don’t need Lindor to be anything more than Lindor. We need Lindor to be Lindor. We need Pete to be Pete. You see a lot of young guys either kick out of the zone or walk a lot of guys in those moments because, like I said, they try harder than they should in a huge moment and they’re too quick. So like I said, I think if you understand that the moment is too big, but you try to just be yourself, I think you have one over on them.”
The Mets are the Mets. That might be enough.
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