If only it were this easy. If only managing a baseball team were like clicking on the DoorDash app on your iPhone when you’re hungry, all those options, all those possibilities. Craving Five Guys? Sushi? Chick-Fil-A? Mexican? All of the above? Click. Click. Click. Then walk to your doorstep 40 minutes later. Boom.
If baseball were the GrubHub app, Luis Rojas would’ve sat in his office at Citi Field just before 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon and determined everything his club was badly craving.
Quality start? Click
Shutdown work from the bullpen? Click
Defense? Click. Click. Click.
Two hours and 42 minutes of tight, tidy baseball later, Rojas and the Mets were walking off the field with a 4-0 win that not only secured this series from the Nationals and not only upped the Mets’ home record to 6-2 (all of the games against NL East rivals) but also provided them with a blueprint for how they can make just about all of the nagging concerns that have haunted them these first few weeks of the season dissolve like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a glass of water.
“We played extremely crisp today,” Pete Alonso said. “We were a very tough team to play against today.”
Baseball is tricky, though. Last week’s comedy of errors can beget today’s perfect game, which can easily beget Tuesday’s house of horrors. It’s a funny game that way. If there was a formula available that the Mets could use to play every game like the one they played Sunday, they’d buy it by the gross, guzzle it by the gallon.
Perfection is more elusive than that.
Still, what the Mets proved to themselves Sunday was that even when Jacob deGrom spends an entire game in the dugout, they are capable of doing some pretty wonderful things. Taijuan Walker wasn’t great but he grinded, ducking in and out of trouble, trusting the guys with the gloves behind him.
The guys with the gloves? That was something to behold. Albert Almora’s ode to Tommie Agee in the sixth inning on a deep Kyle Schwarber fly was the fancy showpiece, a play Alonso called “sexy,” one that probably wouldn’t have even been possible in Almora’s old Wrigley Field home lest he pine for a mouthful of brick wall. But when he made the final leap for the out Citi Field recognized what it had seen.
“I was going to leave it all out there,” Almora said. “I’m an all-out guy who puts the team first. My father taught me if you play the game hard, nothing bad will ever happen to you.”
(We will pause here so you can give that last two sentences the full measure of devotion they deserve. Let that be the mantra for the whole sport going forward.)
But there were others. There was Walker picking off Josh Harrison for the game’s first out. There was a beautiful play by Jonathan Villar at second, robbing Josh Bell, and an even better one by Francisco Lindor at short, flummoxing Yan Gomes. And there was a textbook Michael Conforto-to-Villar-to-J.D. Davis relay, which cut down Victor Robles trying to stretch a double leading off the third, at a time when the Mets were guarding a slim 2-0 lead.
“All those plays,” Almora said, “are cumulative.”
So, when it happens, it is good baseball. So the Mets pounded out eight hits. Davis and Alonso hit home runs, and Conforto barely missed one and looks to be emerging from his early-season tuck-position. Everything worked. Everything clicked. Uber Eats couldn’t have delivered a more satisfying postgame buffet for Rojas and the Mets.
“We’re going to keep stringing days like this together and once we do that over a significant period of time, it’ll be a lot of fun,” Alonso said. “A lot of good things will come from today.”
We’ll check back Tuesday, when the Red Sox visit Citi Field, to see just how contagious these things are in real time. For now, Rojas could call what he saw out of his team “gratifying” and give voice to what he aspires most for his team.
“It’s a win-everyday mentality,” Rojas said, and this wasn’t a bad template for that if it’s even possible. You play a game like this, you’re definitely going to win most days.
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