The Mets win the Rubber Game, series of the season against the Dodgers

Gore reached the major leagues for the first time in 2014, about a month before the Royals won the MLS title. A year later, the running specialist is back in time to help Kansas City win the World Championship over the Mets. Ultimately, Gore made it to the Dodgers in 2020 – they also won a title – before finding himself on the Braves roster after last season despite not playing for them at all during the regular season.

In other words, it’s a good omen when Gore comes to town. On Thursday, he snuck into the Mets’ Zee, and in the eighth inning, he stole a base on cue. Maybe it was just a tiny bit of the Mets’ 5-3 win The Dodgers at Citifield, who have racked up wins in each of the three-game series and seven-game season against the first team in the National League. Gore’s presence nonetheless hints at what the Mets could become.

“The vibe here is the same vibe I got from the Dodgers,” Gore said. “Believe it or not, it’s the exact same vibe.”

In the end, all this may mean nothing in October. Dodgers can get healthy, get back in shape and remind everyone of their status as an NL leader. Some other teams can go up, as the Braves did a year ago. Or the Mets could simply get stuck in any number of ways.

But New York’s win on Thursday helped solidify the theory that if the Mets aren’t the most dangerous team in the NL, they’re at least good enough to compete with anyone.

“They have a really good team,” Edwin Diaz said of the Dodgers. “We showed them that we have a really good team as well.”

Not only are the Mets talented, they are adaptable as well. For the fifth time in his last 13 appearances, Diaz responded to manager Buck Showalter’s call in the eighth rather than the ninth, because the Dodgers’ standings were off the bat. By that point, the Mets had already come from behind to take a three-round lead, thanks to the overall superiority of Francisco Lindor – he finished 2-4 with a tied RBI double, stolen base, and kicked off – running ahead and playing great defense – as well as a high script effort. Quality by Chris Bassett.

But Diaz wasn’t quite the same, walking his first hit, hitting his second, and coming within a few feet — twice — of letting Homer equalise. As soon as the second of those blasts in the warning track died for the sacrifice fly, Diaz decided to cancel his slide altogether, eager to return to hit Gavin Locks at 102.8 mph — the toughest course of his career.

“I was a little pissed off because I didn’t control the slider the way I wanted,” Diaz said. I said, ‘I should better locate my Fastball. “And that’s what I did.”

The Mets are now 36 games over .500 for the second time this season. Only three previous iterations of the team had reached such heights. This version is on track to finish the regular season with the second best record in franchise history and conclude a playoff by mid-September.

The title of the division remains an open question, although things are about to get noticeably easier in this area. Now that they’ve dispatched the Dodgers, the Mets are set to play 16 consecutive games against losing teams, more than half of those against the two worst teams in the NL, the Nationals and Pirates. It’s an opportunity to put enough distance between them and the Braves that the final series of matches doesn’t matter.

This quest begins on Friday. The previous three days presented a different kind of opportunity: a chance to prove they could hang out with the best. During an emotionally charged streak that included more than 119,000 fans who packed Citi Field, as well as thousands of other tabs across the street at the US Open, the Mets achieved just that.

“They have a good show,” said Freddy Freeman, the first man on the Dodgers. “We have a good offer. It will be like that if we face them in the qualifiers.”

Freeman then added that “if we played them in the playoffs, nobody would care what happened in the regular season” – a sentiment echoed by Bassett, Lindor and others in the Mets. And while this is, of course, true, it’s not the point. To be the best, the Mets not only need to know they can beat the best, but they can do so with a certain level of consistency.

Defeating the Dodgers four times in seven games is something the Mets will be eager to get a chance to do again.