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Starling Marte continues riding that wave

MIAMI — He is definitely not going to win, and he probably won’t even get a single top-three vote, but Starling Marte is putting together the type of season deserving of some down-ballot MVP love.

After falling a double short of the cycle in the Mets’ series opener in Miami, the Mets’ big offseason pickup is hitting .305/.353/.482 and looking like one of the smartest acquisitions of the past year, even if he could have used one more big hit on Friday night.

“I didn’t get it today but I’ll get it tomorrow,” Marte said of the history-making double that eluded him.

“He said he’d get one tomorrow. I said, ‘I don’t think it counts tomorrow,’” Showalter giggled.

The Mets will stomach a missed cycle opportunity if it means Marte continues using his bat as a detonation device. His 140 wRC+ has allowed Buck Showalter to mindlessly write Marte’s name in the second spot of the lineup every day and expect more of the same line drives and balls in the gap. With a team-high 12 stolen bases, Marte is also using that top-end speed to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

Now in his 11th season in the bigs, Marte is enjoying the best all-around production of his career, something he said has taken a village. Standing at his locker after the 3-for-5, three RBI spearing of the Marlins, with team translator Alan Suriel relaying his thoughts, Marte gave an explanation for the good fortune he’s had at the plate.

“It’s really just the approach. I have to be grateful for the people that I’ve been working with. I’ve put a lot of trust in them to really focus on the little details. I don’t want to lose that concentration day in and day out.”

The four-year, $78 million contract the Mets gave Marte in November will pay him $19.5 million each season from 2023, 2024 and 2025, when he’ll be 36 years old. That could wind up being a lot of money for someone who’s relegated to designated hitter at that point, but if the Mets are winning playoff series this autumn, no one will care how big of a hit the front office is taking.

A prevailing message from the clubhouse this season has been one of mutual respect for one another. With so many new faces coming in before they got started — and even more being shipped in during this past week — the only thing that the players expect of their teammates is to match everybody else’s compete level.

“It feels good to have guys on a team like this that want to go out there, compete and hustle every single day,” Marte said on Friday. “That’s what every team wants. It doesn’t matter what the results are. To be able to go out there and compete, try to win games, that’s the most important part. We’re all really proud of that.”

One of the biggest benefactors of the Marte signing is Brandon Nimmo, who bats directly in front of him pretty much every single day. With Nimmo hitting leadoff and Marte, Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso behind him, the Mets start each trip through the lineup knowing they have a pretty good chance of testing the scoreboard’s light bulbs.

“It gets pretty difficult for the other team when me and Nimmo are doing what we do, when we’re on fire the way that we are,” Marte said. “It kind of eases the pressure for the next guy to drive us in.”

“It’s helped me because guys have been wanting to attack me more,” Nimmo chimed in. “They don’t want to face Marte with people on base. That also applies to Pete and Francisco behind him. If we both get on, they don’t want to be facing them with runners on, because, I mean, look at the RBI they’ve gotten. It’s been real good protection from Marte the whole year.”

While Alonso leads the National League in RBI and Lindor is sixth, Nimmo and Marte are both in the top 20 of runs scored. It’s about as perfect of a dynamic as a ball club would want, and with the Mets (62-37) now 25 games above .500 for the first time since 2006, their players can’t help but slip into fan boy mode as well.

“He’s unbelievable,” Nimmo said of Marte, a layer of astonishment dripping off each syllable. “You guys see it just like I do. He’s barreling everything. He’s only swinging at strikes. It’s incredible. He’s on a roll right now. It’s something that you dream about doing.”

As for any words of encouragement for Marte, who has been the peanut butter to his jelly all year, Nimmo just asked for more of the same.

“Just keep riding that wave, buddy. As long as you can.”

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