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Mets in NL wild-card race after 1st sweep of Padres in 18 years

Adam Hunger / Getty Images Sport / Getty

NEW YORK (AP) — Mets players lined up in the infield to exchange hugs, high-fives and handshakes after New York's first series sweep of San Diego in 18 years.

Two weeks after a low point in what seemed like a lost season, the Mets headed to Texas bunched among nine teams chasing the NL's final two wild cards, all within two games of each other.

"I thought we always were in the postseason race. It's just some people had us out," Francisco Lindor said after an anxiety-inducing 11-6 victory Sunday. "But in my mind, I feel like we got the team. We have the personnel."

Despite the highest payroll in the major leagues at more than $300 million, the Mets dropped to 22-33 on May 29 when the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a three-game sweep. Players held a team meeting after that game.

New York has won 11 of 15 since, including nine of its past 11 and five in a row. Just four of 15 National League teams have winning records, so the Mets at 33-37 are 1 1/2 games back of a playoff position with 57% of the season left to play.

"Over the course of the 162-game season, certain things early can get highlighted, especially either success or struggles," Pete Alonso said. "But I think that now that as we’re kind of progressing, we’re starting to come into ourselves, understand our identity and hit our stride a little bit."

Alonso had a season-high five RBIs, combining with Lindor on first-inning home runs that built a 4-1 lead against Dylan Cease after 16 pitches.

After Manny Machado's RBI single in the first against Tylor Megill, Lindor hit his 19th leadoff homer — the previous one was off Cease on Sept. 3, 2019. Alonso broke a 1-1 tie with his 15th homer.

New York opened a 7-1 lead in the fourth but the Padres cut the gap to 7-6 with a four-run eighth. Luis Torrens homered against Jeremiah Estrada, Brandon Nimmo had an RBI single and Alonso hit a two-run single in the bottom half.

"Those are some of the games that we were losing in May and today we found a way," Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said.

New York has been a middling offensive team and is 20th among the 30 teams in ERA. Losing closer Edwin Díaz for 2 1/2 weeks because of right shoulder injury, which followed a month of inconsistency, had a ripple effect throughout the bullpen.

"It hasn't been easy: good, bad, rough," Mendoza said. "We're going to be right there until the end."

New York faded from contention last summer, causing owner Steve Cohen to direct a selloff that jettisoned Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, David Robertson, Tommy Pham, Mark Canha and Dominic Leone. Following the team's fade to a 75-87 finish, Mets home attendance is down about 300,000 this year — the biggest drop from last season among the 30 clubs.

Alonso spoke of the players maintaining their self belief. The homestand ended with New York's first sweep of the Padres since Aug. 8-10, 2006, at Shea Stadium. The Mets' winning streak is one shy of their season high.

"I still haven't looked at the standings. I still haven't looked at our record,” Lindor said, "but we just got to keep on climbing the mountain."

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