Mets sweep Cincinnati Reds to continue hot streak

After earlier this year there was talk of arguably the best baseball season in New York, it seemed clear that there was at least a little division between the city’s major league teams.

The Yankees were still the big dogs, and while the Mets were having a great season, they didn’t look that threatening.

After the July 23rd games, just over two weeks ago, the Yankees were 65-31 and tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in baseball. The Mets were a commendable 58-37, which put them six and a half games behind their cross-town rivals and just a half game ahead of National League East rival Atlanta.

Things changed in a hurry. The Mets are 15-2 since then, and the Yankees were 6-9 entering Wednesday’s game in Seattle. That put the Mets on top, at least for now. With a 10-2 win over Cincinnati at Citi Field on Wednesday, the Mets improved to 73-39, a game and a half better than the 71-40 Yankees. The Mets also took over the No. 2 record in the majors, behind the still-high-flying Dodgers, with a 76-33 record heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins.

Perhaps most importantly, the Mets opened up a big lead over Atlanta.

The current hot streak began with a win over the San Diego Padres on July 24, but took shape over the next two games when the Mets hosted the Yankees for the first Subway Series of the season and went to two games.

“It was honestly like a World Series home run,” Eduardo Escobar told reporters after his two-run home run in the first inning helped lead the Mets to a 6-3 victory in Game 1. “I’ve never played in an environment like this.”

Starling Marte singled in the bottom of the ninth inning of the second game, ending the streak a day later.

The wins seemed to jump-start the Mets, and the momentum continued from there: a win over Miami, two out of three over Washington and then a decisive four out of five over Atlanta that extended their division lead. Wednesday’s win gave them a three-game winning streak over the Reds. After an off day on Thursday, the Mets will host the Philadelphia Phillies for a three-game series at Citi Field.

The Mets have excelled on both sides of the diamond: they are in the top four in the leagues in runs per game and runs allowed per game. (Unsurprisingly, so are the Yankees and Dodgers.)

The Mets were helped along the way by the return of Jacob de Grom from injury. He took the loss in his first game, despite giving up just one run over five innings, then struck out 12 in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Atlanta, earning his first victory in more than a year. Max Scherzer, the team’s other ace, is 3-0 during the hot streak, surrendering just two earned runs in three starts. And closer Edwin Diaz, who is shredding the league with a 52.9 percent strikeout rate, has saved six of the 14 wins.

Offensively, the Mets did it with depth. Only one regular starter, first baseman Pete Alonso, has a hitting percentage above .900, but almost everyone is involved. And five of Alonso’s team-high 29 home runs have come during the current streak.

Despite the hot streak, there are a few troubling signs. The Mets haven’t exactly blown teams out: Thirteen of their 15 series wins have come by four runs or less. Although the Yankees had only won six games in that span, three of those were by six runs and two by five.

This follows a seasonal pattern. The Yankees had a plus-205 differential heading into Wednesday’s game, behind only the Dodgers, who were at plus-233. The Mets are plus-127. That’s a good total, and a win’s a win, but the Dodgers’ and Yankees’ huge margins may be an indication that they can hit a higher gear.

In any case, the Mets led the NL East by seven and a half games before Wednesday’s game at Atlanta, and the Yankees were up in the division by 10½ games over Toronto. FanGraphs gives both New York teams a 100 percent chance to make the playoffs. So aside from bragging rights, it doesn’t really matter which team ends up with the best record.

Still…the best regular season record really defines home field advantage in the World Series. There’s a long way to go and a lot will have to break right, but if the first Subway Series since 2000 is to be had, every regular season game could actually matter.