by Paul West
For long-standing Mets fans, the late-spring/early-summer West coach trip has long been a cursed event–where hot streaks, and playoff hopes, go to die. As such, the Mets opening their California trip with a loss to the Dodgers–who sit with them atop the National League standings, but are coming off of a sweep at the hands of the presumed-lowly Pirates–might seem like a ‘here we go again’ moment. But this team is, literally and figuratively, built in such a way as to be more collectively slump-proof than teams in years past.
The Mets have won in a variety of ways on their way to the top of Major League Baseball’s leaderboard: improbable comebacks, wire-to-wire victories, capitalizing on mistakes, “hit it where they ain’t” rallies full of well-placed contact, and only the 17th-ever combined no-hitter. Before heading west, they’d scored 5 or more runs in six straight (49 total) and eight of nine (77 total!), and have only lost one series thus far. and what’s crazy about the aforementioned? It still doesn’t feel like their big hitters are all clicking at the same time yet. Hit-machine Luis Guillorme is doing his best Tony Gwynn impression, with seemingly no holes in his swing or plate approach and producing from wherever he is in the lineup. Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil have had big moments, but also battled bumps and bruises for much of the year. Francisco Lindor has finally gotten hot over the past two weeks, Starling Marte is on fire at the plate, but Pete Alonso has cooled off to a degree; JD Davis is hitting balls hard against lefties and righties alike, getting more playing time in the wake of Dom Smith‘s demotion, and the Mets are getting production from roleplayers like Nick Plummer when their big bats have come up short. There will likely come a time this season when Alonso, Lindor, McNeil, et cetera are healthy and hitting at the same time; and this should help cover the damage done by their increasingly battered & injured bullpen.
Speaking of pitching: the Mets’ starting rotation sports some of the best collective numbers in the league, despite losing two all-time greats in short order and spending much of the season in flux. Chris Bassitt is making people realize how underrated he was with the Oakland A’s, and Taijuan Walker and Tylor Megill (who started the aforementioned no-hitter) continue to be as good as it gets for middle-rotation starters asked to pick up slack. Last night’s loss in the Dodgers series opener was only 2-0, and one run came on a two-out warning track fly ball that Marte uncharacteristically misjudged. Their infield and outfield defense are capable of saving games, which allows for more of a pitch-to-contact approach and less reliance on strikeouts and high pitch counts; and closer Edwin Diaz has returned to elite form.
Perhaps most importantly? The Mets are playing with a mental-emotional resilience and power of belief reminiscent of their 2018 string of late-season walkoffs and the second half of 2015. They never believe they’re out of a game, and that’s one of the most valuable intangibles a team can have.
The Mets haven’t got any glaring holes waiting to be exposed, they match up at least evenly with every other team in baseball, and they’re playing with house money as they’ve built a sizeable lead. Regardless of the outcome of the next few days, the 2022 Mets are here to stay.