A complete Mets, playing the best baseball game of the season and establishing their promise against a team with goodwill for post-season.
They entered a five-game set against the Braves for first place in the NL East, and the Mets would finish the series in the same spot after riding four home runs and Edwin Diaz’s 6-4 win over the current World Champions in front of 38,693 sweaty fans on a sweltering Thursday night in City Field.
Manager Buck Showalter’s club, who led 4 games ¹/ in Atlanta, won nine out of 10 and began re-establishing his lead in the shrinking division.
“It is a special series. They won the World Championship last year, and they are the team behind us,” said Carlos Carrasco, who has allowed three rounds in six innings. “I think that is really important for us.”
The Mets (67-38) led the NL East by 10 games/₂ on June 1 before shrinking that lead to half a game by July 23. But since the Atlanta threatened their lead, the Mets were able to hold up through excellent play, dominating action from Diaz and adding a few players, through trade or better health.
Catcher James McCann returned to the squad on Thursday, a day after Trevor May returned to the mall. Atlanta will face the healthy Max Scherzer (Saturday) and Jacob Degrom (Sunday). The Braves got a first-time bitter taste for the Mets’ recent additions, with left-footed Tyler Naken playing twice in his first home game in Queens, while Daniel Vogelbach pulled off his second home goal in as many days.
“It’s cool,” said Naquin, who enjoyed Citi Field so much more in a Mets outfit. “Heck, even if I’ve been playing here for four years, it’s a good night.”
The night wasn’t complete until Diaz’s surprise entry into the eighth inning, so he started playing his trademark entry song “Narco” late, as he prepared to warm up on the hill.
Diaz, with a two-round lead, put the Braves in the standings for eighth, then succumbed to Eddie Rosario for ninth. But he made Travis Darno fly, hitting Marcel Ozona and running into the Orlando Archia, whose defensive swing ended up hitting him up the mound.
Showalter stated that Diaz’s long hiatus – he hadn’t thrown since Friday – was the catalyst for the longest save of his career, but the opponent should have factored in as well.
“We are playing a good team,” said Diaz, who has not allowed running in his past 16 matches. “We’re just trying to win and let the fans know that we’re really good.”
As if they showed they could score in different ways, the Mets used both the small ball and the long ball to grab a lead they didn’t give up.
In the first half, Starling Marte hit a single, moved up to second on an outing to Francisco Lindor and scored a goal on Pete Alonso’s RBI song.
Then the Mets rotated to the long ball.
Naquin’s first house in the Met resulted in Homer being in the second turn. Alonso, who went 2-3 with three other RBIs to reach 91, had a curve-ball error in the third inning and destroyed it for Homer’s two-round run, his 29th number of the year. Four pitches later, Vogelbach, in the lineup against the Braves right start Kyle Wright, Homer shot to the right.
“I think we knew what [Naquin and Vogelbach] It was capable from a track record point of view,” Showalter said of the commercial additions. “I think it came up a little early on why they fit our needs.”
That was all the scoring the Mets needed, despite having two fears from Carrasco and Bull of the Mets, until Diaz closed the door.
Carrasco, who pushed his goal-free streak to 22²/innings, was rolling to fifth. The Mets righty, who posted a 0.90 ERA in July, only allowed one hit in his first four tires, but Atlanta’s second Michael Harris threw an RBI hit before Carrasco threw a thrilling slide to Ronald Acuña Jr. Brave within 5-3.
They didn’t come close. The Mets scored an overtime sixth-place run on another Dinger Nakuen, and the Braves answered by running against Adam Ottavino for seventh. But with a runner and Acuña on board, Ottavino’s best slide at night rocks the swinging star. Diaz did the rest.
The Mets have won five of eight games this season against the Braves, with four more this weekend before their last seven head-to-head encounters in Atlanta.
Perhaps it is better for the revitalized Mets that the bravest part of the schedule is loaded again. Mets are healthy, reloaded and rolled.
“We got a lot of good guys back,” said Carrasco. “I think we’ll be fine.”
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