Mets announce they can be something ‘special’ in Subway Series

Mets announce they can be something ‘special’ in Subway Series

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Aroldis Chapman threw his arms in the air and then over the back of his head, his face a brew of disbelief and pain as he watched yet another one of his crunch-time sliders go sailing over the wall. But the Mets were not stopping with Pete Alonso’s game-tying homer in the seventh, not even close.

They were trying to crush whatever remained of the home team’s belief in itself.

Once upon a time, in the old Yankee Stadium across the street, the 1999 Mets — their record at 27-28 — started something special after GM Steve Phillips fired three coaches in his Valentine’s Day Massacre. Bobby Valentine, manager, conceded he should also be fired if his team didn’t play better over the next 55 games. The Mets beat the Yanks that night, went 40-15 in those 55, advanced to the National League Championship Series, and reached the World Series the following season.

Who knows what will become of the 2021 Mets after they clinched a Subway Series victory in Game 1 of Sunday’s split doubleheader, before losing their bid for the sweep at night? Baseball is a funny game, after all. But when the Mets left The Bronx with a two-out-of-three result tucked comfortably inside their travel bags, this much was clear:

Unlike the Valentine Mets, who couldn’t prevent the Yankee machine from collecting titles, the Luis Rojas Mets might have inflicted permanent damage on New York’s signature ballclub and, more importantly, announced to the city that they are capable of delivering the kind of magical October that is beyond the fragile Yankees’ reach.

“We’re very proud of what we did here,” Rojas said Sunday night.

Before falling, 4-2, under the lights, in an anticlimactic finale, the Mets turned the matinee into the main event. Gerrit Cole, $324 million ace, couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead for even half an inning. And when the Mets fell behind again, they staged a sixth-run seventh that was a worthy sequel to the award-winning horror film of Wednesday night/Thursday morning, with Chapman and Aaron Boone once again in the roles of co-leading men.

“The energy as everything unfolded, it was so fun it was incredible,” Alonso said. “Every single one of us, we’re committed to being resilient and just being tough outs in the box. … The amount of momentum and energy we had, it was incredible. And once it started, we couldn’t be stopped.”

When that seventh-inning smackdown was complete, with a 10-5 final score, it became clear the Mets are everything the Yanks are not — opportunistic, relentless, resilient, connected, and joyful. “The energy gets transferred from player to player,” Marcus Stroman said. “Even when we’re down big, there’s no sense of panic ever.”

Above all else, the Mets just showed the Yanks they could beat them two entirely different ways — by taking an 8-0 lead and then playing prevent defense, and by erasing a 5-4 deficit in their final at-bat with a show of staggering force.

Of course, it was crazy for Boone to turn to Chapman in the seventh rather than to Chad Green, who needed only two pitches against Dominic Smith to get an inning-ending out in the sixth. Green was beyond brilliant in Sunday’s second game, but the first game was the one Boone needed to give his team a shot at a desperately needed series victory at night.

That’s a Yankee problem, not a Met problem. One New York team is defined by the players’ desire to compete for their manager, and the other New York team is defined by the players’ refusal to respond to almost anything their manager does.

On arrival, from the Mets who came up through the system with their manager, Stroman said he didn’t hear a single negative word about Rojas. Yes, it shows on the field and in the standings.

Rojas, only 39, will likely keep getting better at this, a sobering thought for Yankee fans fixing to maintain ownership of the city. Jacob deGrom, Alonso, and Francisco Lindor are all going to be around for a while, supplemented by Steve Cohen’s Steinbrenner-esque budget and stomach for the fight.

“I think this organization is bound to do great things,” Stroman said.

No need to delay that pursuit of greatness. The Mets have a relatively weak division under their control — a five-game lead in the loss column — while they deploy an otherworldly ace who should be a handful in a best-of-seven. DeGrom didn’t even pitch in this series, and still the Mets won it.

“This team is extremely special,” Alonso said.

So far Alonso’s team has proven to be more special than the Yanks. If that’s a low bar, hey, the Mets seem perfectly capable of clearing more formidable obstacles in the near future.

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