Last night, Jason Vargas defied the world in hurling a five hit, complete game shutout. Among fans, that led to some early daydreaming: if Vargas can do that, what will Zack Wheeler do tomorrow? Well, Wheeler did his part and the Mets’ home run bats did the rest. Power and pitching were on full display this afternoon at Citi Field, as the Mets beat the San Francisco Giants in a satisfying and somewhat surprising game.
The power surge started right away, as Amed Rosario sent Shaun Aderson’s fourth pitch of the day over the center field fence. Dominic Smith, playing left field today, then sent Anderson’s eighth pitch of the day over the right center field fence. Pete Alonso drew a walk and Michael Conforto singled and it looked like the rout would be on early. This being the Mets, though, things are almost never as they look. Todd Frazier hit a soft humpback liner to short for the first out and Adeiny Hechavarria hit into a double play. For all that activity, the Mets came away with only the two homers to show for it. This would become regrettable later.
Wheeler cruised into the third, only allowing his first base runner then, when he nicked Anderson with a stray fastball. The fourth was where he ran into a real problem. Mike Yastrzemski led off with a base hit. Pablo Sandoval grounded into a force play, but Brandon Belt drove another errant fastball over the wall in dead center, tying the game. Wheeler would shake that off, retiring the side in order in the fifth. For his part, Anderson recovered nicely from his disastrous first inning, allowing the odd base runner or two, but getting the double play grounders and third outs he would need. The Giants broke the tie in the sixth, when Sandoval drove a flat splitter into the Coca-Cola Corner, “fifteen rows deep,” according to Keith Hernandez on the TV. At this point, the Giants somehow had the lead, without ever having a single at bat with a runner in scoring position, a statistical oddity which would become a mere footnote shortly.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets would tie the game, despite another odd managerial move by Mickey Callaway. Reyes Maronta replaced Anderson and Juan Lagares led off by drawing a walk. As Tomas Nido tried to get a bunt down, Jeff McNeil came to the on-deck circle to pinch hit for Wheeler. Nido failed to drop the bunt, instead sending a grounder to short. Brandon Crawford was late on his throw to second, though, and Nido was credited with an infield single. Here came Callaway’s head-scratcher. He pulled McNeil back and sent up Carlos Gomez — sensible on its face — who did drop the sacrifice bunt. Now, if the idea was that with two men on and none out, the sacrifice from the nine-hole hitter would be in order, then why pinch-hit for Wheeler at all? Pitchers are taught to bunt, National League pitchers do it all the time. It was puzzling as to why Callaway would burn a bat off his already-short bench unnecessarily. It would turn out OK in the end though, as McNeil ended up pinch-hitting for Rosario and delivering the game-tying bloop single to left.
After Seth Lugo mowed down the Giants in the eighth, Mark Melancon took over the pitching for San Francisco. It was not the veteran reliever’s best afternoon. Alonso greeted him with a base hit to lead it off. After Conforto grounded into a force play, he alertly stole second. Frazier then hit a fly ball to left that just…kept…carrying… on this hot afternoon until it cleared the left field fence, giving the Mets a 5-3 lead. Hechavarria followed that up with a base hit and Lagares would knock him home with a double. Nido grounded put, moving Lagares to third and Wilsom Ramos drew a walk pinch hitting for Lugo. McNeil would deliver the Mets’ seventh run on another base knock, this one pulled to right. J.D. Davis was then hit by a pitch and Alonso — the guy who started all the trouble this inning — finally popped out. Jeury Familia sailed through the Giants’ hitters in the ninth, getting Sandoval on a grounder and striking out both Belt and Steven Vogt.
The Colorado Rockies visit Queens for the weekend starting tomorrow, sending Antonio Senzatela to face Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom.