January 30, 2023

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This simple motto has been key to Mets' success

4 min read
'All 26' has become a mindset as well as team strategy

The four-game series between the Mets and the Dodgers had come down to this for the Mets in the bottom of the 10th as they tried to make a 5-4 lead stand up before they headed for San Diego, where they knew things wouldn’t get much easier:

A 25-year old named Adonis Medina, a skinny right-hander from the Dominican with 10 previous appearances in the big league and just five of them with the Mets, was being asked to pitch his way through Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner and somehow get the Mets to the bus.

“Three guys good enough to be MVP,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said later. “The first two have won an MVP already, and Turner was the batting champion last year.”

Edwin Díaz, the Mets closer, had pitched through those three guys in the eighth, when Showalter decided to use him there. But then, Seth Lugo couldn’t get through the ninth. J.D. Davis had doubled home Pete Alonso — as important a hitter to the Mets as Aaron Judge is to the Yankees — to put the Mets back ahead by a run. The Mets haven’t made things easy on themselves all season. But no team in baseball has provided more late-inning drama. Or pure fun.

Showalter turned to his pitching coach before Medina threw his first pitch (fastball, strike) to Betts and said, “We might be about to witness an ambush here.”

“By the Dodgers?” Jeremy Hefner asked.

Medina knew all about who he was facing. The Dodgers had never seen him. Betts flied out to right. Freeman grounded out into the shift to Francisco Lindor, and Gavin Lux, who’d started the bottom of the 10th on second base, moved to third. Turner was awarded first on catcher’s interference on a checked swing after L.A. manager Dave Roberts complained. Turner got first, and promptly stole second. But he didn’t get the chance to knock home Lux and tie the game. Medina now faced Will Smith, who’d made the game 4-3 in the ninth with a homer off Lugo.

Medina struck out Smith on a pitch so far out of the strike zone it was as if Smith had chased it to Beverly Hills. The Mets had turned the late innings into a show again, after coming back to take the lead in the eighth, blowing that lead, coming back again. The afternoon ended with Medina pitching like a closer and getting his first career save and ambushing the team that no longer had the best record in the league by the time the game ended. The way things have been going for the Mets maybe no one should have been surprised that they got a beauty like this out of a guy named Adonis.

You hear this about the Mets, who didn’t get an off-day before flying to Los Angeles and then headed right for San Diego after the game: “All 26.” That means all 26 players doing something to keep them as far ahead in the NL East while they wait for Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.

On Sunday Trevor Williams, a 30-year old whose one best season as a starter was with the Pirates four years ago, gave up a two-run, first-inning home run to Turner on Sunday, then shut the Dodgers down after that. His last pitch of the day was the fastball he threw to strike out Turner in the fifth.

“What Trevor did at the start was as big a takeaway for me as anything we did today,” Showalter said later.

Eduardo Escobar had a great, long at-bat against Brusdar Graterol before a sacrifice fly made it 3-2 Mets in the eighth, after Davis had made sure to get the ball to the right side and get Alonso to third. Tomas Nido, whose average is up to .250, got an RBI single to make it 4-2 in that inning.

Through it all on their Dodger Stadium visit, the two essential bats out of the Mets’ 26 — Alonso, Lindor — continued to hit like stars. Alonso had two homers on Saturday night as the Mets finally got a game off the Dodgers. He now has 54 RBIs in 56 games, and Lindor isn’t far behind with 45. The next RBI for either one of them will make it 100 for them for the season.

Alonso should have gotten more MVP love himself when he hit 53 homers in his 2019 rookie season. He is right in the middle of the MVP conversation now: .283 average, 16 homers, 54 RBIs, slash line of .359/.552/.911. Betts is getting his own deserved MVP love these days (.303, 16 homers at leadoff spot, .383/.592/.976). He’s not doing anything more for the Dodgers than Alonso is doing for the Mets.

“The only thing that makes Peter really unhappy is not having a game to play,” Showalter said.

Before Saturday’s game, Alonso said to his manager, “You know what today is? A good day to hit home runs.”

So he went out and hit two. The Mets got the last two against the Dodgers. Another weekend when it looked as if all 26 did something, as the Mets were winning games started by Dodgers stars Walker Buehler and Julio Urías. Showalter doesn’t look ahead too much, but he does look around. And he knew on Sunday night that the two best records in baseball belonged to his team and his old team, the Yankees.

“Imagine what the air is going to be like when we finally face each other,” he said, as his team keeps breathing rarefied air in the NL East.

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