NEW YORK -- There may have been scoffing and eye rolls when Terry Collins built this up as a make-or-break homestand, considering the Mets entered the stretch 10 games under .500 and 10 games back in the NL East.
Well, say this for the Amazin’s: They enter the All-Star break on fire … and still relevant.
The Mets completed a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins with a 9-1 win Sunday at Citi Field.
New York Mets
With an 8-2 homestand, the Mets (45-50) have moved into sole possession of third place in the NL East for the first time since May 4. They still are five games under .500 and likely will be seven games out of first place in the division with co-leaders Atlanta and Washington enjoying large late-game leads Sunday, but the mathematics take a backseat to the emotional high for the moment. Sixty-seven games remain.
Jacob deGrom, the third-most ballyhooed prospect in his prospect peer group with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, continued to produce at a level that will make it difficult to entertain assigning him to the bullpen even for a week or two out of the break.
DeGrom limited the Marlins to one run in seven innings to win his second straight start and slice his ERA to 3.18. The lone run against him came in the fourth after Eric Campbell, in his first major league action at second base, retreated into right field calling for Garrett Jones' pop fly but lost the baseball. It dropped between Campbell and deferring right fielder Curtis Granderson for a two-out double. Marcell Ozuna followed by legging out a run-scoring infield single.
Heck, the Mets cannot afford to deprive themselves of deGrom’s bat, either. A half-inning after the defensive bungle evened the score at 1, deGrom followed an intentional walk to No. 8 hitter Ruben Tejada and restored a lead with a two-out RBI single. It was deGrom’s first career RBI.
DeGrom clearly is entrenched in the rotation for the long haul. Collins even acknowledged pregame Sunday that he arranged his second-half rotation to separate the similar-throwing Zack Wheeler and deGrom. Still, Collins had floated Saturday that deGrom might spend a week or two in the bullpen out of the break to conserve innings if Sandy Alderson deems it necessary -- temporarily sparing Daisuke Matsuzaka a bullpen assignment with Jonathon Niese due to return from the DL.
Yet it is hard to conceive that a hard-charging team that fancies itself in the race intentionally would deprive itself of a wildly successful rookie’s starts, no? So deGrom ought to be starting in Seattle in the second series after the break.
He currently is at 112 innings for the season between the majors and minors. Alderson has said 185 innings is the rough cap.
The Mets opened Sunday’s scoring with a Lucas Duda double and Chris Young sacrifice fly in the second inning. Following deGrom’s two-out RBI single, the lead swelled to 3-1 later in the fourth on Granderson’s run-scoring bloop double. Marlins starter Brad Hand departed after that inning with a bruised right shin, which he suffered getting struck with a comebacker.
Granderson scored in the sixth for a 5-1 lead when second-base ump Will Little trumped an out call at the plate by ruling Granderson was interfered with by Ed Lucas while rounding second base. The Mets loaded the bases with none out in the ninth and produced four runs.
What’s next: The Mets reconvene Friday in San Diego for a trip that also takes them to Seattle and Milwaukee. Bartolo Colon handles Game 1, followed by Dillon Gee and then Wheeler. The Padres will throw Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Odrisamer Despaigne in the series.