The Mets beat the Angels, 4-1, on Sunday night in Anaheim to take two of three in their series to cap off a 5-5 west coast road trip.
These kind of trips, especially as the calendar hits June, are barometers for the Mets, and they made a statement that they are here to stay, and have kept winning games for the three-plus weeks they have been without ace Max Scherzer.
They split a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have flipped the top spot in the National League with the Mets all season, to open the trip. They then traveled to San Diego to take on the Padres, merely the third-best team in the N.L., and after winning the first game of that series, 11-5, on Monday night, they lost the next two to drop the series. The third leg of the trip, a three-game set with the Angels, looked to be just as big of a test a few weeks ago, but when the Mets showed up, they had lost 14 of 15 games and dismissed their manager, Joe Maddon. The Mets took Friday night's game, 7-3, before dropping Saturday night, 11-6.
In Sunday ngiht's game, the Mets got tremendous pitching from Taijuan Walker, as he went six innings, allowing just one run on six hits and 10 strikeouts.
The only run Walker allowed came in the first inning when Mike Trout got an RBI single.
The Mets would bounce back against Angels starter, the lefty Patrick Sandoval, as Starling Marte had an RBI double in the third, and J.D. Davis hit a solo home run in the fourth, his second dinger of the season, to make it 2-1.
Like Walker, Sandoval went six innings, allowing those two runs on eight hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts.
In the seventh, the Mets tacked on a big run when Pete Alonso hit a grounder up the middle, past the infield dirt, Angels second baseman Matt Duffy got to it, and when he noticed the Starling Marte, who was at second after drawing a walk, was rounding third for the plate, he fired to the plate, but it was wide, so Marte scored easily to make it 3-1.
Seth Lugo came on to pitch a perfect seventh for the Mets, and he stayed on for the eighth inning, but he left with a runner at first and one out.
For the second straight Sunday on this trip, Mets Manager Buck Showalter turned to his closer in the eighth inning, as the Angels had their heavy lumber coming up. (Buck turned to Diaz last Sunday against the Dodgers, and that was examined in this piece: click here)
Mike Trout was the first hitter Diaz faced, and he struck him out on four pitches, and then he walked Anthony Rendon, but struck out Jared Walsh to end the threat.
In the ninth, as if on cue, as he has done all years, Alonso got the Mets some more insurance, as he blasted one to left field for a two-out solo home run, his 18th of the season, to make it 4-1.
Diaz stayed on for the bottom of the ninth, and struck out Matt Duffy, who looked lost on the sliders who was throwing on the inside corner; old friend Juan Lagares was called out on strikes, and Kurt Suzuki struck out swinging to end it.
Walker got the win to improve to 4-2 on the season, with a 3.08 ERA, and Diaz earned his 12th save on the year.
While the Mets did their job splitting the ten games on this road trip, to improve their record to 40-22, their division rivals have been red hot and made up some major ground in the National League East standings.
The Atlanta Braves have won 11 straight games to improve to 34-27, helping the defending World Champions pull to within 5 1/2 games. The Philadelphia Phillies, who look like a lost baseball team when they were swept by the Mets at Citi Field on Memorial Day weekend, fired their Manager, Joe Girardi, on Friday, June 3, and responded by winning nine straight until they lost to Arizona on Sunday, 13-1. The Phillies are now 30-30, still 9 games behind the Mets, but as they say on Wall Street, the trend is their friend.
So, the division landscape is a lot different the last time the Mets were home on June 1, when they polished off a 6-0 homestand with that sweep of the Phillies and a three-game wipeout of the Washingotn Nationals.
The Mets start a seven-game homestand on Tuesday night. It begins with a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers, who are 34-28, losers of eight of their last nine games, as they relinquished the lead in the N.L. Central to the St. Louis Cardinals (34-27). The Miami Marlins come in for a four-game set starting Friday night, which concludes with a rare Monday afternoon game on the 20th, with first pitch at 1:10 p.m. While Miami has not made the noise Atlanta and Philadelphia have, they are winners of seven of their last ten games, and have a record of 27-31.