After the Mets thoroughly bashed the Nationals on Monday and Tuesday, combining for 23 runs and 33 hits, a kid making his major league debut was able to briefly slow them down.
Nationals’ rookie Evan Lee was able to contain the Mets to only two runs, but it wasn’t enough for Washington to avoid getting swept, as the Mets piled on Washington’s bullpen and took the game 5-0.
The Mets (35-17) have now won six in a row as they embark for what is, by far, the biggest test of their enchanted season. Four games against the Dodgers, three games against the Padres and three interleague clashes with the Angels await them after a cross-country flight. That flight will be full of smiles after Carlos Carrasco’s five shutout innings and Tomas Nido’s moment in the sun that ruined Lee’s first day in the majors.
Carrasco had an uncharacteristically wild day on the mound. He walked five hitters for the first time as a Met and at one point missed the strike zone on 11 straight pitches. But a pitcher doesn’t last 13 MLB seasons like Carrasco without knowing how to get out of trouble. In the third inning, after walking the bases loaded with two outs, Carrasco slotted a perfect changeup on the outside corner to catch Yadiel Hernandez looking.
“I was trying to do my best and give the best I can to my dad,” Carrasco said.
The Mets’ pitcher had his father in attendance to watch the start. It was Luis Carrasco’s first time watching his son de el pitch a major league game, and Carlos mentioned that he almost cried when he saw the video of his dad de el cheering him on. Any parent would be proud of how their child handled adversity the way Carrasco did on Wednesday. The right-hander earned his 95th big-league win without the luxury of a single 1-2-3 inning.
“It was really emotional,” Carrasco said. “We tried before and it couldn’t happen. He was supposed to be here for the first game with the Phillies. His flight from him got delayed and he could not make it. Today, I have made it. I’m really happy.” In the postgame clubhouse celebration, Luis presented Carlos with the Mets’ player of the game belt.
“They call it tug at your heart,” Buck Showalter said after the game. “That’s a full pull.”
Washington squandered their most promising scoring chance in the top of the fourth. Notorious speedster Dee Strange-Gordon stood in with one out and runners on the corners. After a safety squeeze attempt, Strange-Gordon gave it a full swing. The ball went straight into the ground, typically a ticket for Strange-Gordon’s quick-moving legs to reach base. The Mets worked quicker, though, turning the grounder into a perfect double play.
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That defensive mastery seemed to put a pep in the Mets’ step. Nido’s first single came in the bottom half of the inning, and when Strange-Gordon booted the ball in center field, it allowed a second run to coast in. Nido came into the game hitting an even .300 in 23 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. His game-swinging knock — along with a two-RBI double in the eighth to open things up even further, and lock up his first ever four-hit game — gives Nido two more hits in that important situation.
“We treat it like a 0-0 ballgame,” Nido said. “No matter who’s on the other side, we’re trying to jam it down their throat and get the job done.”
A game like Nido’s speaks to how charmed the Mets have been in the first third of the season. Not many teams have a backup catcher in the nine hole that’s so reliable in big spots, and, on the flip side of that equation, no other team in the world has Francisco Lindor.
It seems that, at long last, Mets fans have accepted Lindor into their hearts. He was unequivocally disappointing last season, when he hit a career-worst .230 and finished the year with an unrecognizable .734 OPS. In 2022, he’s been as advertised. Lindor’s sacrifice fly in the seventh gave the Mets an insurance run and also extended his personal streak to ten straight games with a run batted in. Now that his bat from him has finally arrived in Flushing, pairing beautifully with his gold-plated glove, Lindor is near the top of the Wins Above Replacement leaderboard in the National League. Right there with him: Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo.
With the position players showing out and the pitchers turning in quality start after quality start, it’s not hard to see how the Mets are 18 games above .500 at the start of June. Edwin Diaz threw plumes of unhittable smoke past the Nats in the top of the ninth, and the Mets officially swept a homestand for the first time this season. The win over the Nationals was also the Mets’ first back-to-back shutout of 2022, a year that just keeps on giving.
Showalter isn’t much interested in crowning the Mets right now, though.
“We’ll find out in September and October,” he responded when asked how good he thinks his team is. “I’m okay with finding out about it when it gets here.”