When a team gets bad off-the-field news, the game on the field becomes secondary. When the sobering news of Sandy Alderson’s cancer diagnosis and leave of absence was announced, tonight’s game took a back seat. Early on, it appeared as a series of squiggly lines and jumbled emotions.
Steven Matz squared off against Chad Kuhl, and while Matz was all business out there, Kuhl could not keep his cool. The Mets started the first with a base hit by new leadoff man Jose Bautista. After two outs, he chugged to second on the first of many Kuhl wild pitches, while Asdrubal Cabrera was drawing a walk. Another errant delivery sent them to second and third while Wilmer Flores was hitting. This proved fortunate, as Flores wormed a single under the gloves of both David Freese at third and Jordy Mercer at short. Bautista scored easily, but there was a play on Cabrera. Left fielder Austin Meadows’s throw was off the mark, however, and Cabrera scored, as well, with Flores alertly taking second on the throw home and third when catcher Elias Diaz’s throw sailed into short center. We hadn’t seen heads up play like this in two months, never mind two runs in an inning! Kuhl would throw another wild pitch before his night was through.
It was a different story for Matz. He was blowing through the Pittsburgh lineup like a Kansas twister. He allowed only one base runner through four innings, hitting Meadows with a fastball in the first. He completely lost his mojo in the fifth, though. Freese singled and Diaz doubled to start the inning. First baseman Jose Osuna scooted a ball through the infield as Freese scored. Gregory Polanco hit a rope to left center to tie things, and wasn’t it dirty pool for the Pirates to tie the game when Sandy Alderson has cancer? After a visit from pitching coach David Eiland, Matz settled down to leave those runners aboard. Matz was able to last into the seventh, when Polanco rather rudely deposited a ball into the right-centerfield seats. Michael Confrorto — probably the best draft pick of Alderson’s Mets tenure — returned the favor, blasting one onto the batters’ eye in left center.
There we stood, through an eighth inning which saw the benches empty, due to extreme silliness. With one out, Meadows walked against Anthony Swarzak and second baseman Josh Harrison dropped a perfect bunt to the third base side, beating it without a throw. Jeurys Familia replaced Swarzak at that point, and Freese hit a roller to short. Jose Reyes made a strong throw to Cabrera, but Harrison made a clean, strong slide disrupting Cabrera’s throw. Familia started woofing at Harrison, who barked back and out came the players, coaches, trainers, etc. It was all nonsense in the end, but it helped add to the surreal nature of this night. Once order was restored, Familia walked Diaz and with the bases now jammed, got Osuna to ground out to Cabrera.
Familia surrendered a base hit in the ninth, but that was all. The Mets went away silently in the bottom half. Tim Peterson threw nine pitches, retiring the Pirates in order in the top of the tenth. In the bottom half, Conforto led off with a walk, Todd Frazier hit a gounder though the infield for a base hit. After Cabrera couldn’t get a bunt down, Flores hit a shot down the third base line for the ballgame, the Mets’ fifth win in the month of June.
It kinda doesn’t matter.
Tomorrow, Zack Wheeler will face Ivan Nova in the rubber game of the series.