Mets finally get break in schedule to make up crucial ground; Tomas Nido activated from IL

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The Mets can make up ground these next two weeks with 15 straight games against the Nationals, who were dismantled at the trade deadline, and the Marlins, who play scrappy and tough but are still in the basement of the NL East.

Much like earlier this month, when the Nationals came to Citi Field right after the Mets went 1-6 on a road trip to Miami and Philadelphia, anything worse than a series sweep by the Amazin’s would be unacceptable. The Mets did notch all three wins against the Nats on their home turf, and doing so again would be a sweet elixir for the past two weeks.

The Mets are still feeling the aftereffects of going 2-11 in 13 straight games against the Dodgers and Giants. The best way to build back confidence and tap into the energy that allowed them to sit atop the division for 90 days earlier this season will be to beat up on the bottom two teams these next two weeks.

“We didn’t happen to finish,” said Luis Rojas of his underperforming offense. “Those are some of the things that we’re working on every day to get better at. We keep talking about our offense, but that’s reality. Those are the things that separate us from winning more games against those two teams.”

Despite squaring off against less challenging opponents, the schedule ahead is tricky for the Mets. Starting Friday, the club will play 15 games in 14 days thanks to a pair of doubleheaders and just one off-day in that stretch. Of course, the possibility of inclement weather along the way will further complicate the schedule.

Elsewhere around the division, the first-place Atlanta Braves venture into the tough West Coast battle against baseball’s top two teams in the Giants and Dodgers starting Friday. This weekend offers the perfect time for the Mets to take advantage of their schedule.

“We have to attack these next five weeks,” Pete Alonso said.

NIDO ACTIVATED

Tomas Nido returned from the injured list Friday and slid into the starting lineup to catch left-hander Rich Hill. Backup catcher Chance Sisco was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse as the corresponding move. Patrick Mazeika will remain on the bench as Nido assumes starting catcher duties while James McCann (back spasms) recovers on the IL.

Mazeika received praise from his teammates and manager for seamlessly becoming the club’s starting catcher after McCann was unexpectedly scratched from the lineup last week, on Aug. 17 against the Giants in San Francisco. Mazeika found out he’d be starting moments before first pitch, then he ran out to the bullpen where Marcus Stroman was warming up to prepare and go over the game plan with him.

“He’s done a good job,” said Luis Rojas. “He got inserted there right before the game in San Francisco — like 10 minutes before game time. He’s caught every game but one [since]. He synced in quickly with Stroman in that game. He’s received really well, he’s followed the plan really well. I’m glad he was on his toes. You gotta prepare as if you’re going to get thrown in there at any point and it sure happened to him that day in San Francisco. He was ready.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THOR

After Noah Syndergaard successfully returned to the mound on Thursday, albeit with mixed results, the Mets will continue to ramp him up with hopes that he can join the club before the season is over.

Syndergaard will pitch on Sunday for the Brooklyn Cyclones in his second rehab start. Rojas said the right-hander will build off his one inning on Thursday and aim for an “up-down,” or in other words, he will start at least the second inning while the performance staff keeps an eye on his pitch count. Syndergaard threw 16 pitches for Brooklyn on Thursday, with 12 of them going for strikes.

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