Gary Cohen, the Mets’ play-by-play man on SNY, finally called this “Never Say Die Week” for the Mets, after they had started to look as if they were dying a little bit, in what had turned into a lost month of May for them.
This was late Friday night, after the Mets had improbably beaten the Guardians, 10-9. They had been behind in that one, 7-3, before Alonso tied things with a seventh-inning grand slam. Then they fell behind again, 9-7, in the 10th inning before coming back again. The kid catcher, Alvarez, tied the game again with a single and then Lindor, who played a long time in Cleveland, won it with a walk-off single.
“That was next-level stuff,” manager Buck Showalter said late that night.
He meant the next level after the game that had started this five-game winning streak, the 8-7 game the Mets had gotten off the Rays on Wednesday night. The Mets won that one when Alonso — who might hit more home runs than Aaron Judge this season in what would be a great Mets-Yankees Home Run Derby — produced his own walk-off swing and a big one — a three-run homer off Pete Fairbanks.
Alonso got his chance because Alvarez had tied the game with a three-run homer of his own, two outs in the ninth.
Alonso was sick with flu-like symptoms that night, but he refused to take the night off because he never does. Later, Showalter texted him, knowing he was still sick, and gave him the option of taking the next day off.
“Fight the fight” was Alonso’s response.
The Mets fought their way through another one-run victory on Thursday afternoon, 3-2. Alonso hit another one, and the Mets had won back-to-back games for the first time since the end of April.
And suddenly, the Mets were not only picking themselves up, threading a needle at a time when the season could have gone completely off the rails with this mix of veterans and kids. Vientos, the rookie they had just called up, first tied Wednesday night’s game against the Rays with a two-run homer. The kid at third, Baty, hit a home run Friday night. Alvarez, who had been the true star of their farm system, seemed to embrace his big moments the past week the way Alonso does.
“We know we’re good,” Alonso said.
In the first game of Sunday’s day-night doubleheader against the Guardians, the big swing came from Starling Marte, a veteran who has struggled mightily this season. Marte hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning and the Mets had won another one-run game, 5-4.
And yet: After all the big swings of the week at Citi Field, the headline at the end of what became such an important — and unexpected — homestand was about the performances of their Cy Young guys, Scherzer and Verlander. They have made a ton of baseball history so far, and made more on Sunday, when the Mets were the first team to throw six Cy Young Awards at the other team in a doubleheader.
Verlander, 40, started the season late because of injury. Scherzer, 39 in July, had his season interrupted with a 10-game suspension in Los Angeles because of, well, a sticky situation with his pitching hand. And he has been pushed back because of a sore neck. But all they did in that doubleheader was combine to pitch 14 innings of one-hit ball. The only run the Guardians got off either one of them was José Ramírez’s first-inning home run against Verlander on Sunday night.
Scherzer pitched six innings. Verlander pitched eight. Scherzer, bothered by a callous on his right thumb, didn’t have his best fastball. Verlander sure did. The longer he went against the Guardians, the longer he went toe to toe with Shane Bieber — who has a Cy Young of his own — he made you do what you do a lot with Verlander:
“History’s history,” Showalter said when it was over. “But you’ve got to be able to repeat it when it’s expected. And that’s really hard to do.”
On this night Verlander — on whom the Mets have placed such big trust and such big money this season despite his age — made it look easy. In the process, he produced the longest start this season for the Mets at a time when they needed something exactly like that after all the innings Showalter’s relief pitchers had to work during the winning streak.
The Mets now go to Chicago and Denver. But they go on the road two games over .500 after having fallen three games under before Alonso’s three-run shot on Wednesday night. Some week for the Mets: young guys and old guys and familiar Mets stars. And just like that, and out of nowhere, a baseball season broke out at Citi Field.