QUEENS — Chalk up the week the New York Mets had as another prime example of the unpredictability that baseball brings.
After bombing the perceived easy part of their schedule and having lost 16 of their previous 22 games, the Mets’ 3-2 win over Major League Baseball’s best team, the Tampa Bay Rays, on Thursday secured their first series win in a month to break the seven-set winless drought.
“We’re a talented bunch and we know we’re talented,” Pete Alonso, who mashed his 16th home run of the season on Thursday a night after delivering a three-run walk-off round-tripper, said. “Our talent has been there the entire yere. It’s just a matter of performance. So for us to perform against a high-quality opponent is a good sign for us.”
Over the last month, the preseason World Series contenders had been mired in an alarming slump. After taking two of three games against the NL-best Los Angeles Dodgers out west from April 17-19, the Mets lost their mojo. They split a four-game series out in San Francisco against the Giants and proceeded to lose five straight series.
A two-of-three-game-series loss and a four-game split to the Washington Nationals sandwiched a 1-2 series against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, a sweep at the hands of a retooling Detroit Tigers side, and then 1-2 series losses against the NL West’s last-place Colorado Rockies and the NL Central’s Cincinnati Reds.
“We hold ourselves to high standards and the past few weeks have been tough,” Alonso said. “I can’t deny that it’s been tough.”
Heading into a three-game set against the Rays and having lost 14 of their previous 20 games, expectations were understandably low — and nervous, pessimistic hands continued to inch closer to the panic button. It certainly didn’t help when Justin Verlander was smacked around for six runs on eight hits in an 8-5 series-opening loss to the Rays, which was initially believed to be their best chance to steal a game.
“There’s been a lot of lip service,” Mets manager Buck Showalter pointed out in regard to the outside perception of his team.
But the heroics of recent call-up Mark Vientos, catcher-of-the-future Francisco Alvarez, and Alonso allowed the Mets to erase three multi-run deficits on Wednesday night in a wild 8-7 victory in 10 innings.
They then pulled out the rubber-game victory on Thursday afternoon behind a strong outing from Tylor Megill, another Alonso blast, and a well-placed dribbler up the third-base line by Tommy Pham.
“For us to scratch out two out of three against them is big for us,” closer David Robertson, who sealed Thursday’s win with a save, said. “We needed that for our confidence.”
The 22-23 Mets have a quick turnaround, beginning a three-game series at Citi Field against the Cleveland Guardians where they’ll be looking to get back to the .500 mark with the momentum gained from their big wins over Tampa Bay.
“We have to keep going, keep pushing,” Alonso said. “But winning and us coming together as a team, there’s so many guys… who did a lot of things extremely well this series and I hope that this springboards us into the next series.”