Chicago – This is what it’s supposed to look like.
After two days of struggle in late spring Chicago, the Mets looked like a different team Thursday night in a 10-1 blowout of the Cubs. They tallied 15 hits, their second-highest total of the season (and their highest in almost an entire calendar month). They received strong pitching, most notably from Carlos Carrasco. And they combined it all to save their last game at Wrigley Field after losing two in a row.
“It all comes together,” Carrasco said.
Although Carrasco was referring to his success on the mound, he may also have been talking about the whole team. It was that kind of performance, that kind of night.
And throughout it, three factors were a bit bigger than the rest:
Those concerned with Carrasco’s form got some relief Thursday as Carrasco not only gave his best start to the season, but arguably his best outing since last July. It had been a long time since Carrasco had allowed one run or fewer while also swinging in the seventh inning. Afterwards, Carrasco admitted he had never felt like this before at any time this year.
Of particular note was Carrasco’s discrete change, which generated five of the nine whiffs of the night. Carrasco is unlikely to regain his old mid-90s speed any time soon, as he has been teetering with a bone spur in his right elbow that is currently causing him no discomfort. But if he can play effectively on a low-90s fastball, while also mixing in a couple of different ballparks, there’s reason to believe the 36-year-old can still thrive.
“When I have that kind of change, I don’t want to stop throwing it,” Carrasco said. “I can get a lot of ground balls.”
Behind Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the Mets didn’t have a stable third option in the rotation. If Carrasco can become that kind of pitcher again, the team’s bidding situation will look significantly different.
“We all know what that can mean to us,” said manager Buck Showalter.
transverse polar force
With most of the game still in hand in the seventh inning, Pete Alonso attacked Michael Rooker who clipped his fastball on the outside edge of the strike zone, hit it hard, and then watched the wind help carry it 372 feet over the right field fence. In doing so, Alonso joined Dansby Swanson as the only right-handed hitters to go deep into this part of Wrigley Field this season.
During the two months of the season, the numbers and facts about Alonso became something to watch. For example, he is one of only nine players to hit at least 165 home runs during his first five seasons, joining such notables as Ralph Keener, Albert Pujols, Joe Dimaggio, and Ted Williams.
Alonso leads the major leagues in homers and the National League in RBIs. He and Jeff McNeil hit a successful double steal in the fifth inning Thursday, increasing Alonso’s career hit rate to 91.2 percent. Oh, and he’s only committed one error at first base all season.
“We don’t talk about it that much, on purpose,” Showalter said. “Everyone is doing their projections and everything about the way things can go, but he plays really hard too.”
Outside of Alonso, New York crime isn’t designed to strike zombies invariably like most other contenders. The Mets remain around the league average in the power department, as they were last season. So it was encouraging for Showalter to see the streak of offense together multi-hit rallies in the third and eighth innings.
“It’s just a reminder of what we’re capable of and what we need to do,” Showalter said.
Of particular note are the multi-period games from McNeil, Francisco Alvarez, Brandon Nimmo, and Starling Marte – the latter two of whom seem to be emerging from recent slumps.
“That’s when we’re at our best — we take good AB bases, we settle on base, and we squeeze the defense,” McNeil said. “It leads to some running around.”
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