MIAMI — Every 2021 Mets day feels like its own season, replete with surprises and standouts and trauma and triumphs. How is it that this drama-addled franchise has become more of a soap opera since its sale to Steve Cohen?
Friday turned out to be a particularly amazing season.
Hours after they placed Pete Alonso on the injured list, the Mets survived a 12-inning thriller, 6-5 over the Marlins at the ridiculously spelled loanDepot park, to expand their National League East lead to 2 ½ games over the Phillies. They prevailed on the backs of rookies and relievers, overcoming a very questionable move by their manager Luis Rojas, sustaining yet another in-game injury when Jose Peraza departed with a left calf contusion after getting hit by a Zach Pop pitch.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Rojas said. “But I’m proud of the group. Very proud.”
The primary source of pride had to be freshman Khalil Lee, acquired from the Royals last offseason in a sneaky transaction, who began his big league career 0-for-8 with eight strikeouts. When he stepped to the plate in the 12th to pinch hit for Drew Smith, the Mets had men on first and third with one out, after Lee’s fellow rookie Jake Hager had just stroked his first big league hit.
The Mets had botched first-and-third, no-out rallies in the previous two innings. They had blown a 3-1 lead in the seventh when Rojas lifted his starting pitcher, Marcus Stroman, after just 89 pitches and Miguel Castro immediately surrendered a game-tying, two-run homer to Garrett Cooper.
(Rojas said he capitalized on Thursday’s off-day and consequently fresh relievers. Eh.)
The heat was on.
“This is about the best scenario you could draw up, coming up in a big situation with the team counting on me to come through all the lights shining,” Lee said, after he ripped a double into the right-field corner to plate ghost runner Dom Smith, thrilling the many Mets loyalists on site. A third rookie, Johneshwy Fargas, followed with a two-run triple, but was thrown out at home when he went for the inside-the-parker, nevertheless clapping and roaring with joy.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Stroman said. “But I’m proud of the group. Very proud.”
The same goes for the rookie owner Cohen, who tweeted, “How about that” in the top of the 12th and “Never a doubt” after Aaron Loup and Jacob Barnes teamed to record the last three outs, the Marlins coming up just short after scoring two.
The Mets have their six most valuable players, as per Baseball-Reference.com’s wins above replacement, on the IL. They have two regular starting pitchers, Stroman and David Peterson. Early Saturday morning, Rojas said he didn’t know who would start for his team some 16 hours later. They fielded a lineup Friday night that featured exactly one guy, $341-million man Francisco Lindor, from the Opening Night starting nine.
Even as injuries pervade the industry like never before, what the Mets are enduring stands out. What they’re accomplishing shines.
Afterwards in the clubhouse, Stroman said, the Mets toasted their rookies’ success.
“Every time we win it’s a party,” said Lee, who added that the ball from his first hit would be going to his parents. The stoic Rojas downplayed the notion that this was the Mets’ biggest win yet, only to then divulge that he received a text from Kevin Pillar, whose terrifying hit-by-pitch earlier in the week shook the club, expressing the same sentiment.
Hell of a night. Hell of a season to date. How much more of this can the Mets — and you — handle?
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