It's not just a fantasy anymore: now on runs of 9-1 and 15-5, the Mets are pitching and playing well enough to have a real shot in the wild-card race, the caveat being the problem they have in the ninth inning:
What to do with Edwin Diaz?
The best solution is to win 13-2, as they did in Pittsburgh on Sunday, but the reality is they're going to need a dependable closer to have any chance to continue climbing the wild-card standings.
Right now set-up man Seth Lugo is the definition of dependable, unscored upon over his last 13 outings, and the Mets need to cash in on his dominance at least as long as Diaz continues to struggle.
In fact, Diaz has surrendered runs in each of his last four outings, and while the Mets survived all of them, they're too deep into this season to think their 25-year old closer is suddenly going to find his form.
And while you can make the argument that they don't have enough quality in the bullpen to win without help from Diaz, their margin for error is too thin to simply continue giving him the ball in the ninth inning and hope for the best.
If it means Diaz pitching the eighth inning at times, well, this idea that they'd lose him mentally is crazy. He's a closer with a 5.44 ERA, for cripes sake, as Terry Collins would say.
And for that matter, he's been demoted from the closer role before, in 2017 with the Mariners, and he survived just fine that time, pitching his way back to the ninth inning later that season.
Simply put, the Mets are playing too well right now to let a closer's ego get in the way of doing what's best for the ballclub, and it's up to Mickey Callaway to make Diaz understand it could be best for him as well, taking some of the ninth-inning pressure off at least temporarily.
On the other hand, it's also not as simple as flip-flopping roles and making Lugo the closer, partly because his performance suffers dramatically when he's overworked and the Mets need to handle him carefully.
But twice in the last week Callaway was presented with the perfect opportunity to use a rested Lugo to lock down close games when he was obviously sharp. In Chicago against the White Sox he threw an eight-pitch eighth inning, with the Mets holding a one-run lead, and then Saturday night against the Pirates he cruised through a 10-pitch eighth inning, again with a one-run lead.
The Mets don't like to use Lugo on back-to-back days anyway, so on each occasion it was set up nicely for Lugo to pitch the ninth and get the save. Yes, it would mean he'd need a day off, but it's also the surest thing Callaway has in those spots, which is what this team needs right now.
As it turned out, the manager went to Diaz both times and it could have cost him.
In Chicago, two walks and a hit-by-pitch led to the White Sox tying the game, before the Mets won it in 11 innings. And then in Pittsburgh Callaway was fortunate his team added on three runs in the top of the ninth, so the two-run home run Diaz gave up only made the score closer rather than lose the game.
Obviously you can't know if Diaz would have given up the home run with a one-run lead, and indeed Callaway implied that everything would have been different, making the point to reporters that his closer blew away the final two hitters on strikeouts after the lead was cut to two runs.
But let's not pretend as if Diaz can turn it up a notch when the situation calls for it.
He's given up 10 home runs this season while blowing five saves and, for that matter, all of his key numbers, from his 5.44 to his 1.47 WHIP to his -0.4 WAR, are the worst of any closer in the National League.
During the Chicago outing, Ron Darling noted on the SNY telecast that Diaz looked nervous on the mound, appearing to try and guide the ball as he issued two walks, and surely that speaks to the scar tissue that has built up on him and affected his confidence.
In truth, this shouldn't be so difficult to make the right call. Callaway, don't forget, was the one who preached using his bullpen situationally when he first came over from Cleveland, saying he wouldn't even designate a closer.
Well, that philosophy never took root, but he should still lean on his days as a pitching coach, when the Indians had success in part because they did mix and match their relievers so effectively.
For example, if Callaway didn't want to use Lugo for two innings on Saturday night, the Pirates had their 8-9-1 hitters coming up in the eighth: better to use Diaz against the bottom of the order and save Lugo for their best hitters in the ninth.
It's that type of creative managing the Mets need right now, as it applies Diaz. Most everything else is clicking, and they can survive Robinson Cano's hamstring injury, even if he was finally starting to hit.
What they can't survive at this point is Diaz blowing more saves. And while you always have to factor in Brodie Van Wagenen's influence on such matters, Callaway says he's not bending to anybody's ego.
"I don't think we're locked into roles," he told reporters Saturday night. "We're going to do whatever it takes to win, based on usage, things like that."
It sounded good. Now let's see him do it.