CINCINNATI — Terry Collins was as relaxed as you’ll see him, ever, a few hours before his Mets would officially kick off their drive for home-field advantage in the NLDS with an 8-1 slamming of the Reds brought to you by a back-to-form Jacob deGrom and a cast of irregulars.
“This is Stage One,” Collins said, “of some really fun times coming up.”
Still, the day after the Mets wrapped up the sixth division title in team history, it was worthwhile to look at 10 important benchmarks of the season to date, 10 days that helped get us here (even if we didn’t — couldn’t — know it at the time).
1. Monday, April 6
Mets3, Nationals 1
At the moment, it just seemed an agreeable way to begin the season. In retrospect, Opening Day at Nationals Park was filled with omens: Max Scherzer pitched brilliantly… and took the loss anyway. Ian Desmond made a key error. And while Jeurys Familia didn’t get the save — he was still the set-up man — he pitched a filthy 1-2-3 eighth inning. The torch wasn’t necessarily passed that day… but the Mets did get a chance to touch it.
2. April 25
Mets 8, Yankees 2
The Mets’ 11-game winning streak had ended the night before, the Yankees battering Jacob deGrom in The Bronx, and this helped ease the notion the Mets would simply be a product of one aberrational hot streak because Matt Harvey was sensational — 8 ²/₃ innings, five hits, two runs, seven strikeouts. It was a little different vibe than the next time he’d face the Bombers.
3. June 25
Mets 4, Brewers 0
Of course, while the Mets did scuffle for the next few months, they also kept giving games back to.500. The night before, in Miller Park, the Brewers had dropped the Mets to 36-37 — the only time, it turns out, the Mets spent any time this year with a losing record. But deGrom scattered four hits over eight innings and the Mets could scratch just enough offense to crawl back to sea level.
4. July 3
Mets 2, Dodgers 1
There were several tipping-point moments where it seemed the Mets’ season was on the verge of collapse. This was one. The Cubs had swept the Mets at Citi, and now they faced a West Coast swing, greeted on Day 1 by Clayton Kershaw. But Noah Syndergaard matched Kershaw pitch for pitch, the Mets broke through in the ninth against Kelsey Jansen, and the season was salvaged. For now.
5. July 22
Nationals 4, Mets 3
The Abyss, Part 1. The Mets were six outs from beating the Nats 3-1 and winning a key series two games to one, would’ve inched one game back. But Bobby Parnell couldn’t close out the eighth inning, Collins was too slow to summon Familia, and when Michael A. Taylor knocked in two with a single the Mets had blown a lead and, it seemed at the time, a golden opportunity.
6. July 29
Padres 7, Mets 3
The Abyss, Part 2. Yes, this was the night that Wilmer Flores was caught crying in baseball, and no matter what happens from here this will probably be one of the signature images of the season. Still, when it was announced after the game that the Mets’ deal for Carlos Gomez had been called off, a mountain of the same-old-Mets spin started churning wildly. Of course they were done for now.
7. July 30
Padres 8, Mets 7
The Abyss, Part 3: There were about 32 things that had to happen to the Mets to blow a 7-1 seventh-inning lead, and Biblical weather was only one of them. They were two strikes away from ending matters when the umps inexplicably called for the tarp, and when play resumed 45 minutes later it took Familia about 28 seconds to blow an excruciating game that seemed like it would be impossible to rebound from.
8. July 31
Mets 2, Nationals
Maybe the single biggest day of all. A few seconds before the trade deadline, Sandy Alderson acquired Yoenis Cespedes. A few minutes before midnight, Flores beat the Nats with a walk-off home run. A platinum parlay.
9. Sept. 9
Mets 5, Nationals 3
There would be nervous moments after this, because the memories of 2007 were still so strong. But when the Mets finished off sweeping the Nats — coming from behind in all three games — the race in the NL East was over.
Mets 10, Reds 2
Magic number: zero.