No, the Mets had already shown the best kind of fight against the Cardinals and their closer Giovanny Gallegos on Monday night, in the top of the ninth when they were down 2-0 and Mark Canha was down 0-2 in the count. They scored five after that. There was an Arenado error, a ground ball behind first that produced two runs when Gallegos was just slow enough covering first on a ball hit by Dom Smith, finally a Brandon Nimmo home run. At that point the Mets have won their first six series to start a season in the 60-year history of the team.
The calendar turns to May on Sunday. But it is Buck’s Mets, and the way they have played without Jacob deGrom, who have been the story of baseball in April.
Of course, the Mets aren’t the only story. The Dodgers and Giants are doing it again in the National League West, and the Padres, with Bob Melvin as their manager now, are right there behind them. Mike Trout and the Angels are in first place in the AL West and the Yankees are in first place again. The Blue Jays? They’re still really, really fun. The Brewers never seem to go away.
But through Thursday night’s game, it is the Mets who had the most victories in the sport. They’ve won at home and they’ve won on the road and the starting pitching — led by Max Scherzer — had been consistently stellar until Carlos Carrasco got lit up by the Cardinals on getaway day. They’re the ones who have been as fun to watch as anybody. It’s only a 20-game sampling. But it’s clear that they’re going to be around, clear what a difference Showalter’s presence in their dugout and in their clubhouse has made.
They don’t just fight when the benches clear, the way they did in the first series of the season against the Nationals and the way they did on Thursday. There has been both toughness and resilience to this group. Their fans know how long they were in first place last season, sometimes seeming to do it with smoke and mirrors, before the Mets collapsed over the second half after deGrom was shut down for good. This team is not that team. Anybody who thinks that they are going to suddenly revert to being the Same Old Mets is probably watching the wrong movie already.
After Mondays night’s improbable come-from-behind victory, one that really started when Canha simply refused to make the last out after getting down in the count against Gallegos, Showalter said this: “You know what our team is about? It’s about Max not wanting to talk about the way he pitched tonight [seven shutout innings, two hits, 10 strikeouts, one walk] and came away without a decision because we didn’t score for him. He was like, ‘This isn’t about me. This is about us. Are you kidding? Did you see how that game ended?’”
Scherzer has been tremendous (3-0, 1.80 ERA, 33 strikeouts in 25 innings), in this season when he and deGrom were supposed to come out of the blocks as the best 1-2 punch of any starting rotation in baseball and the best the Mets have ever had when you start the conversation with the five Cy Young Awards between them. But Chris Bassit, whom the Mets acquired from the A’s, has been a worthy wing man to Scherzer with his 3-1 record and 2.25 ERA. The night after Scherzer had given the Cardinals two hits in seven innings, Bassit came right back and gave them two in the six scoreless innings he pitched on Tuesday night.
The Mets continue to make it look as if Billy Eppler had a better offseason than any executive in the game, starting with he and owner Steve Cohen deciding they wanted Showalter to be their manager, and Cohen being willing to spend big on Scherzer. But Showalter and Scherzer are just the bold type moves. Eppler also brought in Canha, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, all of them starters. Frankie Lindor, despite slumping in St. Louis and seeing his own batting average drop under .300, has played like a star again. And the Mets have the record they do without Pete Alonso, the Polar Bear, busting out with home runs.
The Mets got a day off on Thursday. Then they’ll be home for three games against the Phillies, who are starting to play better, and three more against the Braves, who you know will play better. Those games will be at Citi Field. Then they go on the road for four games with the Phillies.
We’ll see how things look in the NL East after the next 10 games. But off the first 20, it’s hard to believe that Showalter’s Mets are going away. You saw in St. Louis. They don’t back up much. And are back.