The Cardinals beat the Mets, 5-1, April 1. Through the Met’s first ten games, it’s their only loss. And if you lose on April Fool’s Day, does it even count?
At 9-1, the Mets are off to their best start in franchise history. After Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run double in the ninth inning Tuesday to hand the Mets an 8-6 win over the Marlins, they’ve also won their first four series of the season for only the second time in Mets history.
The Cardinals were both their most recent loss and first series win, followed by the Phillies and the Nationals, both swept by this new-look Mets team. The Marlins have one more game to see if they can break the streak and escape unswept, but the way things are going, don’t count on this team to fumble.
Under the management of newcomer Mickey Callaway, taking over for Terry Collins, the Mets look as close to their 2015 World Series form as they’ve gotten since then. It’s still early in the season, which may explain some of their opponents’ lapses, but is also a testament to the cohesion of this Mets squad just ten games into 2018.
The Mets’ sweep of the Nats earlier in April is a good omen for their hopes in the NL East this season. Last season, the thought of contending for a division title would have been absurd under Collins’ rocky and disconnected leadership. But under Callaway, and the way things have been going, it doesn’t sound so crazy.
Callaway’s strategy for revitalizing the Mets involves advanced analytics used to construct lineups and plays, an insistence on forming a personal relationship with every coach, manager, and player, and focusing on the positives both in practice and in front of the press.
Of their nine wins so far, five have been comebacks that make the Mets work for it, regaining a lost lead in late or extra innings to preserve their run. In 23 innings where an opponent has scored on the Mets, they score their next turn at the plate more than half the time.
The success has been a team effort, with usual suspects deGrom, Syndergaard, and Cespedes lending below-par performances. Despite two game-winning hits, Cespedes has gone just 2-for-20 since Saturday, when he reported feeling under the weather.
deGrom allowed the Marlins four runs in the fifth inning Tuesday before being pulled in the sixth. Luckily, the Mets’ pitching staff has enough depth to support the kind of comeback baseball they’re apparently specializing in now. Jeurys Familia has recorded six saves so far as a reliever, an essential skill if more than half of your wins hinge on a last-minute surge (and protecting against the other team doing the same).
With very little new talent in the bullpen, the Mets are finally realizing the full potential of their veteran roster under Callaway. Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez, two of the Mets’ oldest players, have been quite literally stepping up to the plate and helping the team catch up with the rest of the league with stellar hitting and even a few home runs.
In time, the Mets’ age — five of their core players are over 30 — may either catch up to them and tire them out or will give them the upper hand as they face younger, less experienced teams.
But right now, the players are old, the season is young, and the future is brighter than ever.