The Mets are complete, playing their best baseball of the season and establishing promise against a bona fide team in the postseason.
They entered a five-game series against the Braves in first place in the NL East, and the Mets will finish the series in the same spot after hitting four home runs in a 6-4 win over the defending champions. the World Series in front of 38,693. sweaty fans on a muggy Thursday night at Citi Field.
Manager Buck Showalter’s club, which advanced 4 ¹/₂ games over Atlanta, has won nine of 10 and has begun to reinflate a dwindling division lead.
The Mets (67-38) led the NL East by 10 games ¹/₂ on June 1 before that lead was cut to a half-game on July 23. getting back to health has stabilized the Mets.
Wide receiver James McCann returned to the lineup Thursday, a day after Trevor May returned to the bullpen. Atlanta will face a healthy Max Scherzer (Saturday) and Jacob deGrom (Sunday). And the Braves bitterly tested the Mets’ recent additions, as left fielder Tyler Naquin hit two home runs in his first home game in Queens, while Daniel Vogelbach hit his second home run in as many days.
As if proving they can score in different ways when the opportunity arises, the Mets used both the short ball and the long ball to take a lead they didn’t give up.
In the first inning, Starling Marte reached on an infield single, walked Francisco Lindor to second and scored on Pete Alonso’s RBI single.
So the Mets turned to the long ball.
Naquin’s first at-bat as a Met resulted in a second-inning home run, his eighth of the season. Alonso, who went 2-for-3 with three more RBIs to reach 91 for the year, curveballed by mistake in the third inning and blew it away with a two-run homer, his 29th of the year. Four pitches later, Vogelbach, in the lineup against Braves right-hander Kyle Wright, homered to right field.
That was all the scoring the Mets needed, though there were a couple of scares from Carlos Carrasco and the Mets bullpen until Diaz closed the door.
Carrasco, who took his scoreless innings streak to 22 ²/₃ innings, rolled into the fifth. The Mets right-hander, who posted a 0.90 ERA in July, allowed just one hit in his first four frames, but Atlanta’s Michael Harris II hit an RBI single before Carraso threw a juicy slider to Ronald Acuña Jr., whose two-run home run brought the Braves within 5-3.
They didn’t come close. The Mets scored one more run in the sixth on Naquin’s second home run of the game, and the Braves responded with a run off Adam Ottavino in the seventh. But with a runner on and Acuña at the plate, Ottavino’s best slider of the night struck out the superstar.
Showalter called up Diaz, who hadn’t thrown since Friday, for his first six-out save of the season. And as Diaz has done all season, he agreed.
Diaz, who put the Braves in order in the eighth, gave up a leadoff single to Eddie Rosario in the ninth. He then he made Travis d’Arnaud fly, struck out Marcell Ozuna and got Orlando Arcia back on the mound with the crowd on its feet. Diaz hasn’t allowed a run in his last 16 games and earned his 24th save and perhaps his biggest.
The Mets have won five of eight games this season against the Braves, with four more to play this weekend before the last seven head-to-head battles in Atlanta.
Perhaps it’s better for the reinvigorated Mets that the Braves’ portion of the schedule is pushed back. The Mets are healthy, recharged and rolling.