The great Baltimore manager Earl Weaver once famously said “The secret to baseball is simple: starting pitching and three-run homers.” The Mets employed that philosophy to a T on Labor Day, 2018.
Jacob deGrom opened this series in Los Angeles historically, but inauspiciously. With one out in the bottom of the first, ol’ pal Justin Turner hit a 2-1 fastball into the pavilion in left for a quick 1-0 Dodger lead. They wouldn’t be that successful the rest of the night. deGrom blew through the Los Angeles lineup allowing just one other hit, one walk and striking out six over six innings. Here’s where history comes in: it was deGrom’s twenty-fifth consecutive start in which he allowed three runs or fewer while pitching six innings or more. That broke a Major League record set by Dwight Gooden in 1985.
So much for mile markers. The Mets couldn’t do much against Alex Wood for four innings, either, but in the top of the fifth, they were able to draw even. Jay Bruce walked leading off and Devin Mesoraco singled. In so doing, he sustained what is being called “neck and back stiffness,” and was pinch-run for by Jose Reyes. Jeff McNeil bounced into a 4-6-3 double play, but deGrom helped himself out with a solid single to right to score Bruce. That was all for Wood, as LA manager Dave Roberts decided to manage his pitching as if it were game seven of the NLCS, using three pitchers to get through a four-batter sixth inning. Meanwhile, Seth Lugo maneuvered around a first-and-third, nobody out situation in the seventh all by himself. Drew Smith had a similar situation in the eighth, but came away unscathed, as well.
In the top of the ninth, Bruce led off with a double off Kenta Maeda. He was bunted over to third by Mesoraco’s replacemnent, Kevin Plawecki. McNeil was winged by a fastball. Brandon Nimmo — held out of the lineup against the left starter Wood — pinch hit for Drew Smith and hit a tracer into the right field seats, giving the Mets a most improbable 4-1 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Robert Gsellman gave up two hits and a sacrifice fly, but was able to induce the dangerous Matt Kemp to hit into a 6-4-3 game-ending double play.
It’ll be Jason Vargas looking to continue his good run taking on Rich Hill on Tuesday night.