So much has been made about the Mets’ propensity for winning series so far this year as a foundation for why they’ve surged to an early lead in the N.L. East. And that has clearly been a good thing: heading into Thursday’s matinee in Washington, D.C., the Mets were 8-0-1 in their first 10 series. That’s helpful.
Just as important — and probably more meaningful — is this: The Mets had lost back-to-back games only once this year. Every threat of a losing streak has been quickly tied off with a tourniquet. And the Mets wanted to do that again Thursday. The lowly Nationals had crushed them, 8-3, the night before. It’s silly to panic over one game.
But when one game become two, and two becomes three, and …
“We wanted,” Mark Canha said, “to take care of our business today.”
And so it was that Canha, given three days off in the past six, found himself at the plate with two outs and the bases juiced in the top of the first inning. Nats starter Joan Adon had walked them loaded, but it seemed the Mets were on the verge of letting him off the hook.
If Canha had looked at the scoreboard, he’d have seen that his batting average was sitting at .291 — the first time since Opening Day when he’d entered a game lower than .300 after a splendid start. But he wasn’t dwelling on that. He had one thought on his mind.
“Drive in some runs, baby!”
Canha is from the Bay Area, so perhaps he was instinctively paraphrasing one of that region’s patron saints, Al Davis. Or, as he offered, “I kind of knew they were going to pound me inside, and I tried to use that to my advantage, jump a fastball and drive in somebody.”
They pounded. He jumped. Two Mets scored, and they were on their way to a drama-free 4-1 victory, remain unbeaten in 10 series, and have still yet to lose more than two in a row 33 games into a 22-11 season.
There was so much to like on getaway day at Nationals Park. Taijuan Walker threw seven scoreless innings at the Nats a week after getting lit up by the Phillies, and he did it while looking like Jim Brown limping back to the huddle most of the day.
There was the play that is already stored away for inclusion in this year’s highlight reel, the non-double-play double play in the bottom of the fourth that was so unique both outs merited their own scoring numbers — out one was 5-6-1, and out two 9-6.
But for all the good, the Mets generated just five hits — three were from Canha, who exited the game back over .300 at .313 and added a perfect coda for a near-perfect day by clobbering a pitch from sidewinding righty Steve Cishek in the ninth that cleared the fence to tack on the Mets’ final run.
It earned him the Mets’ daily “hitter of the day” honor, announced after the game and before the media is allowed into the clubhouse. If it occurs to you that you haven’t seen any of the gaudy boxing belts or funny hats or sashes that usually go along with those kinds of things, it will also likely not surprise you that the no-nonsense Mets have a no-nonsense award.
“It’s just a baseball belt,” Canha said, chuckling.
“What’s cool about this team is that all of our hitters have won the award at some point this year. That’s been the coolest part. It’s not always the same guys.”
The home run was also thoroughly enjoyable. It’s hard to describe Canha’s hot start as surprising, because the Mets did sign him for two years and $26.5 million just before the lockout hit. What has been a tad frustrating for a player who has hit as many as 26 homers (for the 2019 A’s) was that of his first 25 hits, 23 had gone for singles.
Buck Showalter expects Canha will find that strike soon, the Mets’ manager proffering that a spring training illness might have put Canha a bit behind his normal spring regimen. Canha can feel a difference.
“I’m right where I want to be,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I got a couple softies today, but I’m feeling better, slowing things down in my head and I got a good swing off. Finally.”
And the Mets got out of Washington with their hot start still intact. On Yogi Berra’s birthday, the Mets made sure to outrun one of Yogi’s timeless aphorisms — “The other teams could make trouble for us if they win” — for at least another day.