As much as the Mets have tried to shift direction in the past week — executing a surprising trade for pitcher Marcus Stroman and holding onto several players who were widely assumed to be trade bait — some things appear destined to stay the same.
That includes Manager Mickey Callaway’s lineup, which drew questions Thursday morning when the slumping, 36-year-old Robinson Cano was again in the cleanup spot despite entering the day hitting a meager .235.
When asked whether he has considered moving Cano out of a spot normally designed for productivity, Callaway pointed to recent results.
“Not when we’re still winning and streaking,” Callaway said. “Call me superstitious, I guess, on that one.”
The product of superstitions or not, the familiar lineup worked on Thursday as the Mets extended their winning streak to seven games with a 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The Mets’ run of good fortune is grounded more in steady starting pitching, timely hitting and a favorable schedule than in luck. Their latest win offered a bit of everything: Zack Wheeler — one presumed trade option — gave the Mets another stellar outing. Amed Rosario and Jeff McNeil had impressive plays on defense, and Cano, making Callaway look good, broke out of his slump with a home run and a run-scoring double.
The Mets completed their second-straight sweep, moved to within two games of .500 and won their fifth of six series since the All-Star break as they try to close the gap separating them from the National League’s second wild-card berth — a gap that had shrunk to four games as of Thursday afternoon.
“We’re feeling really good, we’re right back in this thing and, hopefully, we’ll go to Pittsburgh and do the same thing,” McNeil said.
Pitching continues to propel the Mets, who rode the arms of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Wheeler in their series sweep of the White Sox. Wheeler, who expressed relief to still be in a Mets uniform after Wednesday’s trade deadline, threw seven shutout innings on Thursday while allowing just four hits and striking out seven.
Callaway said it was one of the best efforts he has seen from Wheeler, who could be an important cog in a Mets rotation that is one of baseball’s best after the addition of Stroman, who will make his Mets debut on Saturday.
The Mets head to Pittsburgh playing light and free, no longer burdened by uncertainty now that the trade deadline has passed.
“This team has shown resiliency,” Van Wagenen said Wednesday. “This team has earned the right to now go play meaningful games over the course of the next two months, and I know they’re excited to go do that.”
He added: “We’re going to try to give them the resources and that includes the player personnel to give them the chance to go win. That’s been our mission and we don’t see that changing.”
Callaway acknowledged that a palpable and collective sense of relief came as the trade deadline passed on Wednesday. There is still work to be done, but the Mets have strung victories together, knowing what the clubhouse will look like moving forward.
“Now, there’s no distraction as far as that goes, and so you can really bear down and get after it,” Callaway said.
The Mets realize that the road will eventually get tougher, but the positive energy and chemistry that Van Wagenen first noticed in spring training has held up through all of the ups, downs and questions about the roster.
What the Mets will do with the final two months of the season remains the biggest question, but right now, in the midst of good times, they’re feeling good vibes.
“When you win, good things happen. When you lose, it’s turmoil,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “For us, we keep our heads high. We know we still have an opportunity in front of us.
“It’s a long road, but if we worry about what we’re doing and we’re not worried about everybody else — we know there’s a lot of teams in front of us — if we’re worried about winning games, the pieces will fall where they need to be and we’ll be right back where we need to be.”