Lou Brown, the gruff manager of the lovable underdogs from Cleveland in the movie Major League, once said, "We won a game yesterday. If we win today, it's called two in a row. And if we win again tomorrow, it's called a winning streak. It has happened before." With Cleveland's real life team coming to Queens today, the New York Mets might be thinking of Brown as they try to start a winning streak of their own.
You'll forgive the Mets if they've forgotten what a winning streak feels like. Yesterday's win was the first time since April 20th that the team has even chained two consecutive wins together, hopefully signaling the end of a month of play in which "mediocre" would be too charitable a descriptor.
The series win against Tampa was a total team effort, with clutch homers by Pete Alonso, Francisco Alvarez, and Mark Vientos, plus quality innings from several members of the Mets' bullpen. The primary reason for the Mets' success, though, and the biggest necessity for keeping the good times rolling against the Guardians and beyond, is quality starting pitching.
Justin Verlander wasn't able to hold up his end of the bargain in the first game of the Tampa series, giving up two bombs to my new least favorite human, Isaac Paredes. The next two games, though, featured dazzling performances by Kodai Senga, who ghost forked the Rays into oblivion with 12 strikeouts over six dominant innings, and Tylor Megill, who at one point retired 15 Rays batters in a row en route to six superb innings of his own.
The Mets must have quality starting pitching deep into games if they want to keep winning.
Some factors are working in the Mets' favor. The Guardians are fresh off a series loss against the lowly White Sox, failing to score more than three runs in any of the three games in Chicago. Additionally, two of the games in this series will be pitched by Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, the best pitchers on the team.
I can hear you shouting at your computer or phone, "Scherzer and Verlander haven't been any good!" First off, don't yell. It hurts my feelings. Secondly, Scherzer and Verlander have been too good for too long to just fly off the proverbial cliff at the same time. They're not going to Thelma and Louise this thing. Are they in their primes? No, of course not. But both guys have always been tough, gritty pitchers that found success for reasons beyond their good stuff. I have faith that they'll find their groove.
The other Mets starter in this series is Carlos Carrasco. Cookie will open the series in his first start back with the varsity club after his IL stint, and he'll face his old team for the first time. It's unlikely that Carrasco will be counted on to give more than five innings or so at the most, but it would be a tremendous boon to the Mets' chances if he looks like his old self.
The Mets ranked dead last in the league in quality starts entering the Rays series. We've now seen what they can do when their starters get the job done, and that should be the blueprint for the team going forward. Win today and that's called a winning streak. It has happened before.