MILWAUKEE — Whether literal or figurative, the Mets were never going to suffer too debilitating of a hangover on Tuesday, because they didn’t view a playoff clinch as reason to trumpet their successes too loudly. The Mets were proud of their postseason berth, sure, and they celebrated it with appropriate gusto. But each time a Mets player spoke of their accomplishments, he qualified it with some sort of “but …”
But, Pete Alonso said, “we need to focus where our feet are.”
But, Francisco Lindor said, “we have a long-term goal that started back in February.”
That goal, of beating back the Braves over the final two weeks of this season, will be no simple matter. So it was hugely rewarding for the Mets when Lindor hit a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning Tuesday night to lead them to a 7-5 victory over the Brewers at American Family Field. Combined with Alonso’s three-run sixth-inning homer, the blast allowed the Mets to run their winning streak to six while moving 40 games over .500 (95-55) for the third time in franchise history. And it allowed them to maintain first place on a night that the Braves already won.
“Every game is extremely important,” Lindor said. “We’re in the fight. We said that yesterday. We kept on saying it: that’s not the end goal. We wanted to clinch, obviously, but that’s not the end goal.”
Games remaining: 12
Standings update: First place, 1 game ahead of the Braves
Magic number to clinch the NL East: 13
Guilty of playing “a little bit stale” in the early innings, as Lindor put it, the Mets began their comeback when Brad Boxberger entered the game in the sixth and allowed the first two men he faced to reach base. Alonso followed with a three-run homer off the batter’s eye in straightaway center field.
An inning later, Taylor Rogers walked three consecutive batters before serving up Lindor’s first-pitch slam on a center-cut fastball.
“You know what, man, there’s just no excuse for it,” Rogers said. “You just have to keep the ball in the yard. I haven’t been doing that.”
Rogers could at least take some solace in the fact that Lindor and Alonso have been doing this to everyone. Combined, they have driven home 220 runs, the most by a pair of teammates in the Majors. (Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado of the Cardinals are second, with 210, followed by Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo of the Yankees, with 200.) Alonso has 121 on the season, which is both a career best and three shy of the franchise single-season record.
“They’re not exactly leaving a lot of steaks out there for the other guys,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Asked about that duo’s proclivity for driving in runs, Lindor credited Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and all the other teammates who have hit above them this season. But while table-setting is important, it’s clear that the Mets go as Lindor and Alonso go. As the team’s regular three- and four-hole hitters, they’ve driven home almost exactly one-third of the Mets’ runs.
“We have really good plans,” Alonso said. “We’re really disciplined. If you miss over the plate, we’ve got a chance to drive the ball in the gap or over the wall.”
In that fashion, the Mets managed to undo all their early-game issues, including a brief and ineffective start from Carlos Carrasco, who allowed three runs in four innings. They also avoided dropping into a virtual tie atop the NL East. While this division may well come down to a three-game series between the Mets and Braves at the start of October, the Mets would like to enter that week with their division lead intact.
So, as Lindor noted, every game matters, and Showalter is managing as such. Facing trouble in the eighth, he turned to Edwin Díaz for a four-out save, which the All-Star closer executed with aplomb. Díaz struck out three of the four batters he faced, including Kolten Wong and Andrew McCutchen on 101 and 102 mph fastballs to end things.
“I mean, this is fun,” Alonso said. “This is what you’re all excited for. This is what you work for in the offseason — this type of race. You have two great teams, but this is really fun because you get to find out what you’re made of.”