Before Sunday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets had lost 12 of their previous 14 games, continuing their slide toward irrelevancy in a season that once seemed fairly promising. Even Brandon Nimmo, the team’s best hitter and most cheerful player, acknowledged the Mets’ ongoing collapse was wearing on him.
But Nimmo, as he was getting ready for the game, recalled a line from the baseball comedy “Major League II,” in which the manager of a fictional, and sometimes woeful, Cleveland Indians team talks to his players about actually trying to win a few games in a row. “It has happened before,” he tells them.
And now, it has happened again. The Mets, who are not fictional but who have been as awful as those Indians famously were in the original “Major League” film and then again, at times, in its sequel, had not won even two games in a row in a month. But thanks to a two-out, two-run homer by Nimmo in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday, the Mets managed to beat Arizona in back-to-back games this weekend.
The Mets — yes, the Mets — are on a streak, even if their season record remains a dismal 30-38.
“I was kind of thinking, ‘Man, it’s been a while,’” Nimmo said after his blast overcame a 3-2 Diamondbacks lead and was followed by another homer, by Asdrubal Cabrera, in an eventual 5-3 win. “For us to be able to get that second win in a row on a big hit, that’s really good for our positivity and our momentum going forward.”
Most of the past month for the Mets has felt like the same game being played over and over again: solid starting pitching, inconsistent fundamentals in the field and on the bases, an erratic bullpen and a lineup that barely seemed to have a pulse. And for much of Sunday’s game against the Diamondbacks, it seemed like more of the same.
The Mets’ starting pitcher, Zack Wheeler, was stout, allowing two runs over six innings while striking out eight. That would often be enough to position a team for a victory, but not, in most cases, the Mets. Wheeler’s lone hiccup came in the fourth inning, which was also when his fellow pitcher, Jason Vargas, was ejected for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout.
“I came and told him thank you because I needed a little break right there to catch my breath,” Wheeler said. “It was a long inning.”
Trailing, 2-1, in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets brought in Jeurys Familia, back from a short stint on the disabled list, to keep it a one-run game. Instead, Arizona scored a run to make it 3-1, which, by current Mets standards, seemed like an impossible margin to overcome. But somehow, they did.
Diamondbacks closer Brad Boxberger did get two quick strikeouts to start the top of the ninth, but then Jose Reyes, who was making his first start since May 29 and is hitting under .200, bunted a pitch down the third-base line after noticing that the Arizona third baseman, Jake Lamb, was playing deep.
Although the ball was headed foul, catcher Alex Avila picked it up and Reyes was aboard.
“I contributed to this win,” he said later. “The whole season long, I feel like I don’t contribute at all for this team.”
Jose Bautista, a pinch-hitter, then drove Reyes in with a double into the right-field corner that Arizona’s Jon Jay misplayed.
Up came Nimmo, who in his first full season has been one of the few relatively positive stories on the team. And he proceeded to smash his 10th homer of the season to put the Mets ahead.
Robert Gsellman then closed out the game in the bottom of the ninth, although the Mets’ Dominic Smith made things a little nerve-racking with an error that allowed the leadoff hitter to get on base.
“It was really great to come back and get a win like that,” Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said when it was all over. “That’s something we were doing early on, which feels like three years ago.’’
Nimmo admitted the Mets’ dugout was tense before the ninth inning. He said he and his teammates had been trying too hard at the plate, and that it has been counterproductive.