Mets back in playoff hunt

You may not have noticed them.

That’s OK, I missed it too.

At one point near the All-Star break, they were 40-51.

Monday afternoon, the New York Mets pulled back to .500 at 56-56. They have won three games in a row, including a 6-2 victory over the Miami Marlins a handful of hours ago.

The Mets have gone from woeful also-ran to a team on the rise, having gone 16-5 since being 11 games under .500.

“It’s exciting,” Jacob deGrom said to the Associated Press after pitching the Mets over the Miami Marlins 6-2 in the opener of a Monday’s twi-night doubleheader. “We still got work to do.”

He is not wrong.

I was sitting down last night with a co-worker, a Seattle Mariners fan, and I could not help but talk about my favorite baseball team as you, the reader, may remember. We discussed his team and the sheer number of moves the team has made over the course of the season, and then we talked about the Mets and their sheer lack of movement.

Just last week, the Mets were in the news throughout the trade deadline. They were considered by nearly every media outlet that covers professional baseball as a team looking to sell, looking to the future.

A couple of days before the deadline, the Mets did something that left nearly the entire sports media scratching their collective heads, they landed pitcher Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays. Stroman, a 28-year-old righthander, is from Medford, New York. He grew up pitching in youth baseball against Mets pitcher Stephen Matz. He had demanded that if he was moved, he be moved to either New York or Houston. Of course, when he said New York, he meant the Yankees.

However, it was the deal offered by the Mets that the Blue Jays decided to move on.

Suddenly, the Mets who, when healthy, has a very formidable starting rotation in defending Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zach Wheeler, Matz, and, until last week, Jason Vargas. Stroman immediately replaces Vargas in the rotation, and should be a significant improvement over the aged veteran.

With a rotation like that, it left me wondering why they were 11 games under .500. Add to that the fact that left fielder Jeff McNeil leads the National League in hitting with a split of .337/.400/.532, a full .007 better than Milwaukee superstar right fielder Christian Yelich, and that head scratching becomes more pronounced.

Oh, and did I mention that rookie first baseman Pete Alonzo is third in the NL in home runs at 34, just three behind Yelich. Alonzo won this year’s Home Run Derby as well.

So what the heck was going wrong with this group?

From first year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s best Billy Beane impersonation in his micro management of the team in May and June to the string of injuries to top players like Yoenis Cespedes and Robinson Cano, who got hurt again Monday tearing a hamstring in the win.

Yet, the Mets have slowly begun chipping way the way the Cleveland Indians did in the movie Major League.

It is fun to watch. This group doesn’t feature a Carlos Beltran, a David Wright, a Jose Reyes. Instead, it has Alonzo, McNeil, J.D. Davis.

Keep an eye on the Mets down the stretch. They have whittled down their way back into the Wild Card race, sitting just 2.5 games back of Washington and a half game back of the Brewers.

While the Detroit Tigers are 30 games back of Tampa Bay as of printing, things can turn around if they can figure out what kind of team they want to be moving forward. The Mets shifted from being offense-heavy with the Beltrans and Wrights to defense-heavy now, and it has worked. It would not surprise me if the Tigers figure that out in the next year or two.