“The answer is … four?”
— Thornton Melon, “Back to School”
DENVER — Yes, after the Mets’ 6-1 defeat of the Rockies on Tuesday night at Coors Field, combined with the Cubs’ 4-2 loss to the Reds over in Wrigley Field, the Mets’ miracle fantasy rests at four. Four games separate the Mets from both the Cubs and Brewers, who caught up with their Midwest rivals thanks to a 3-1 victory over the Padres, for the second National League wild-card spot with 11 games to go.
To label the Mets as long shots would insult long shots. Nevertheless, Tuesday did more than slightly increase the Mets’ extremely slim odds of pulling this off. It also served as the latest example of this team’s resilience and, like Rodney Dangerfield’s college-attending sexagenarian, its likability.
“This group is amazing, man,” said Marcus Stroman, who clocked his best game as a Met, throwing seven shutout innings. “Honestly, we show up with the same confidence every day. I think we can rattle off some wins here. I think we can get hot. I think everyone believes that.
So it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”
“We’re going to try and grab as many games as we possibly can,” said Pete Alonso, who smoked his major-league-leading 48th homer. “Every one matters, and we’re going to keep trying to play our best baseball coming down the stretch.”
Regardless of the understandable resentments you may hold toward this team’s non-playing personnel, how can you not respect the Mets picking themselves up after three losses in four games to prevail in this ballpark where, even in a highly disappointing season, the Rockies still own a winning record (now 40-37)? Or the new guy Stroman, who has now allowed one run over 13 ⅓ innings in his last two starts after tallying a 5.05 ERA in his first seven Mets games?
Or the Mets’ three-homer, four-run top of the sixth inning that broke open a scoreless tie? First came Amed Rosario, trying to close his second full big-league season on a high note, with the two-run blast off Colorado starter and loser Tim Melville, his first round-tripper since Aug. 5. One out later came Brandon Nimmo, his season largely lost to a neck injury, going the opposite way and over the wall for the second time in two nights here. One out later came Alonso punishing a ball 467 feet to center field, the second longest of his career, pulling him within four of Aaron Judge’s all-time rookie record of 52.
(Alonso, because he’s Alonso, held an in-game chat with Super Bowl-winning Broncos coach Mike Shanahan after his homer. “He said, ‘Good swing. Fun watching you play. Keep doing it,’ ” recounted Alonso, who confirmed he was familiar with Shanahan’s accomplishments. “I’m like, ‘Thanks.’ ”)
If you can’t appreciate these players, no matter where your rooting interests lie, then perhaps you just don’t like baseball. Fittingly, a vocal group of transplants/tourists saluted them with a “Let’s Go Mets!” chant in the top of the ninth as they added another insurance run.
Like Thornton Melon at the end of his Economics final, the Mets have appeared quite exhausted lately. After losing two of three to the National League-leading Dodgers at home, the finale a Sunday night game, they flew all the way here and just seemed to run out of energy in Monday’s opener, jumping to a 4-1 lead before allowing the game’s final eight runs for a 9-4 loss, dropping them to five games behind the Cubs. Five more zeroes followed on Tuesday, although as Alonso noted, they did hit some balls hard in that span.
Thanks to Stroman, the visitors remained tied through that stretch. And thanks to the Mets’ outburst in the sixth, here they stand, still able to gaze at the standings and dream.
“Now, going forward, we have to win every single game that we play,” Rosario said through an interpreter.
Again: The dream very likely won’t be realized. Isn’t it nice, though, for these guys to still be able to think big so late on the schedule, and maybe to win a few more admirers along the way?