At this point, there is wonder whether the Mets are suckering opposing teams into a false sense of security. Buck Showalter’s club allows its pitching to dig an early hole before its offense bides its time, awaits its moment and then attacks.
The Mets received brilliance from Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and generated more late-inning magic to stage a pair of comebacks and steal a long day of baseball — and a series — from the Guardians at Citi Field on Sunday.
The Mets escaped, 5-4, in the first game and squeaked out a 2-1 victory in the nightcap to run their winning streak to five games — each won by a single run.
The Mets (25-23) have matched their longest winning streak of the season before they hit the road for six against the Cubs and Rockies beginning Tuesday.
“Overall,” Francisco Lindor said after his home run against a rolling Shane Bieber tied the nightcap in the sixth inning, “it was great baseball for the New York Mets.”
After Starling Marte’s eighth-inning home run put the Mets over the top Sunday afternoon, a second late-stage rally capped by a Jeff McNeil sacrifice fly lifted the Mets to a doubleheader sweep.
The Mets swept Scher-Lander Day, receiving a combined 14 innings of one-run ball from Scherzer and Verlander in the most optimistic day for their rotation this year.
Scherzer was excellent through six scoreless innings in Game 1, in which his fastball abandoned him because of a split callus on his finger. But he relied on his secondary pitches to keep the Mets in the game until Marte’s bat took care of the day’s first comeback victory.
Verlander, who had been roughed up by the Rays on Tuesday, dominated in the nightcap.
One outing after Velander got booed in his Citi Field debut as a Met, the 40-year-old received a standing ovation after eight strong innings.
Verlander was nearly untouchable, allowing just three base runners and one run (on a first-inning homer from Jose Ramirez) in an efficient and needed performance. The Mets’ bullpen was taxed — as evidenced by Brooks Raley saving the night game after throwing a scoreless inning in the afternoon.
“We all know what Max is capable of, and I’m hoping to kind of hit my groove,” Verlander said after the longest outing by a Mets starter this season. “That’s how you would draw it up on a day like today.”
Despite Verlander’s brilliance, the Mets trailed, 1-0, in the sixth inning when Lindor pounced on an 0-2 knuckle curve and rocketed it to left-center, just out of the reach of a leaping Myles Straw.
They completed the comeback two innings later, when Francisco Alvarez began a rally with a muscled single to right field and was removed for pinch-runner Marte.
Marte took off for second base in what became a perfect hit-and-run. Lindor’s half-swing grounded a ball toward the shortstop hole, which had been abandoned by Gabriel Arias as he ran to cover second base. With runners on the corners and one out, McNeil lifted a sacrifice fly to put the Mets on top in their latest taste of late-inning heroism.
“We’re on a high right now,” said Lindor, who has started every game this season and played all 18 innings of the doubleheader. “Try to continue to stay on the high.”
It was Lindor’s walk-off, 10th-inning single that keyed Friday’s victory and Pete Alonso’s walk-off homer that sparked the Mets in the 10th on Wednesday.
In Sunday’s first game, Marte did not wait for extra innings.
After the Mets’ bullpen blew a 3-0 lead in the top of the eighth, Brett Baty walked to put the tying run on base in the bottom of the inning. Marte, who had not had an extra-base hit since April 14, blasted a four-seamer from Trevor Stephan over the right-field wall to set off a celebration.
“This has been a battle for the last couple of weeks,” Marte, who has been struggling, said through translator Alan Suriel after his first homer since April 7. “Day in and day out, we’re starting to get closer to where we want to be.”
The Mets, who as recently as Tuesday were skidding, looking for answers and three games under .500, abruptly look like a new club.
“Sometimes when you’re not going well, you just try to hover around .500,” Verlander said. “As long as you can grind and find a way to stay afloat, you go on a good run and all of a sudden you look up and it’s like: Wow, our record’s getting better.”