The winning streak continues, unlikely and possibly quite costly.
In a game that was dominated by the two starting pitchers, the big action came in the last three innings and had nothing to do with either of them. John Means squared off against Marcus Stroman and for six-plus innings, there was nothing to choose between the two of them. In the top of the seventh, Freddy Galvis led off with a base hit and was immediately followed by another single by Maikel Franco. Rookie second baseman Rio Ruiz dropped a bunt in front of Mets catcher James McCann, whose only play was at first. Here is where the managerial wheels began to grind. Mets’ skipper Luis Rojas tried to force the hand of his opposite number – Brandon Hyde — intentionally walking catcher Pedro Severino. Trying to get a run across, Hyde took the bait, pinch hitting for Means with Pat Valaika. Rojas continued the chess match, pulling Stroman in favor of lefty Aaron Loup. Hyde won the battle as Loup surrendered a long flyout and the O’s had a 1-0 lead. Loup was able to limit the damage to that lone run. Baltimore added on in the eighth, a run that was costly to the Mets, even though they ended up winning. Trevor May entered and was greeted by a booming shot to center field off the bat of right fielder Austin Hays. Mets’ centerfielder Albert Almora, Jr., was able to run down the deep fly, but crashed face-first into the centerfield fence as he caught the ball. It came loose on impact and Hays was credited with a triple and Almora wobbled off the field with the Mets’ training staff. May gamely struck out Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle, but Galvis reminded Mets fans why we disliked him so much when he was a member of the Phillies. He dropped a surprise bunt down the third base line, bringing Hays home.
The Mets – now down two players, having lost second baseman Jeff McNeil to leg cramps earlier – fought back in the eighth. Tomas Nido pinch hit for May leading off and drew a walk from Baltimore reliever Adam Plutko. After Jose Peraza – McNeil’s replacement – struck out, Hyde brought in hard-throwing lefty Tanner Scott. He immediately walked Francisco Lindor and gave up a hard single to Michael Conforto, plating the Mets’ first run. Jeurys Familia came on in the ninth and allowed a walk and a single.
The Mets ambushed Baltimore closer Cesar Valdez in the bottom of the ninth, taking advantage of Valdez’s hitherto perplexing Bugs Bunny slow ball. Kevin Pillar led off and raised everybody’s hopes with a long fly to left that was initially called a home run, but was ruled foul by sharper eyes – there wasn’t even a replay. Instead, Pillar had to settle for a hard single. Jonathan Villar followed that with a base knock of his own. McCann struck out, failing to get a bunt down, but Dominic Smith – Almora’s replacement – hit a rope to right center, which Hays dove for and missed. He threw a seed to Ruiz who fired home just a hair too high and Pillar was able to slide home with the tying run. The ball got past Severino and Villar was able to go to third. The brought up Patrick Mazeika to hit for Familia. As is his custom, Mazeika delivered a quality at-bat, scalding a shot to Mancini at first, who fired home too late to nail Villar sliding in with the game winner.
That’s six in a row, but the injuries to Almora and McNeil will bear watching.
Matt Harvey will make his first appearance against the Mets tomorrow at noon, facing Taijuan Walker.