The Mets go and do something like this just when you think they can’t possibly get any worse.
Who’d have guessed that a weekend trip to serene Pittsburgh would generate enough angst to fill an entire season of “Freaks and Geeks”? That’s who, if you’re following the Mets. So when Michael Conforto hit a two-run ninth-inning homer to lift his team to a 7-6 comeback victory over the Pirates on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park, it didn’t come as a surprise, simply because it matched this wacky team’s entertaining story:
The Mets have been defeated. But, so far, they’ve managed to get back on their feet, aided in no small part by a lackluster competition.
“We show up every single day to win. You can see that in the way we continue to fight no matter what the situation is,” Conforto said. “We’re going to continue to fight. It’s not so much about who we’re playing. It’s really just the attitude that we bring every single day.”
After building a 6-0 first-inning lead, propelled by a Taijuan Walker blunder that allowed three runs to score on a Kevin Newman swinging bunt — truly one of the most irrational plays you’ll ever see in a big league game — and punctuated by the normally placid Luis Rojas metamorphosing into Billy Martin as he (wrongly) challenged the (correct) call by home-plate umpire Jeremy Riggs, getting ejected, bumping Riggs and requiring three of his coaches to restrain him. The Bucs, on the other hand, looked capable during this strange seven-game series before and after the All-Star break, winning four games and rallying from a 6-0 deficit on Saturday night, with Jacob Stallings’ walk-off grand slam against Edwin Diaz putting them in position for a Sunday home sweep.
Whether it was Rojas’ tirade energizing his teammates, or folksy Aaron Loup declaring in the dugout, “We might as well have some fun while we’re here instead of being miserable for the next six, seven games,” or a simple market correction, the Mets had a lot of fun in mounting what might be their best win of the year, in part because of the timing: The Phillies, who won both ends of a de facto doubleheader against the Marlins, would have closed to within one game (two losses) of first place in the National League East if they had lost. With such a result and the pregame announcement that Jacob deGrom would be placed on the injured list due to forearm discomfort, this would have been the worst day of the season.
The offense’s heroics and the bullpen’s 8 2/3 shutout innings — Loup, in particular, famously escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth inning with three straight strikeouts — don’t magically heal deGrom, whose health is obviously vital. With the trade deadline approaching on July 30 and the Mets’ offense showing signs of life, it appears that adding starting pitching is the top priority. One more variable in play is whether the severity of deGrom’s injury should further calibrate their target — does the idea of giving up good prospects for a Jose Berrios become less appealing if you’re not sure if you’ll have deGrom for October?
All of these are more pressing concerns for the Mets than a Pirates thrashing in the second half. They reminded themselves of what they’ve been through and what they can be with Sunday’s effort.
“I’m very proud of the group,” Rojas said. “This is another good sign of how good of a team we are.”