The Mets notched their first win of 2021 with a combination of power, great starting pitching and – dare I say it? – some small ball.
Marcus Stroman took the ball and did some wonderous things with it. In six innings, he surrendered a mere three hits, walked two while also hitting a batter and surrendering his only run on a fourth inning solo homer to Didi Gregorious. By that time, the Mets already had a lead. In top of the fourth, Dominic Smith hit the Mets first home run of the year, a bomb to the opposite field, knocking in Pete Alonso, who had walked just ahead of him. The game stood there until the seventh, when the New Yorkers busted this thing open with some help from the Phillies’ bullpen.
Vincent Velasquez had come in and mowed the Mets down in the sixth. In the seventh, different story. Luis Guillorme – in the game after J.D. Davis took a pitch off his hand in the second inning – led off with a walk. James McCann got himself one of those, as well, after Jeff McNeil struck out. Kevin Pillar pinch hit for Stroman and drew another walk. The fourth walk of the inning went to Brandon Nimmo and gave the Mets their third run. That was it for Velasquez, who gave way to Opening Day hero Brandon Kintzler. Francisco Lindor hit his first pitch to deep center, far enough away that McCann could stroll home with the second run of the inning and Lindor’s first Met RBI. Here’s where the inside baseball happened: Pillar had crossed to third on Lindor’s fly. On an 0-2 pitch to Michael Conforto, Nimmo broke for second and Pillar broke for the plate. J. T. Realmuto threw down to second, but the ball glanced off Nimmo as Pillar scored. It was officially a double steal and the first steal of home by a Met in seven years. Conforto ended up hitting a booming double past Bryce Harper in right and the Mets ended up with a four-run, one-hit seventh.
Now it was up to the bullpen and the collective “gulp” heard across Mets nation was audible…and warranted. In the bottom of the seventh, Miguel Castro got two quick strikeouts, but then surrendered a double to Adam Haseley and singles to Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm, cutting the lead to 6-2. Trevor May came on in the eighth and didn’t allow a run, but the inning was fraught anyway, as he allowed two base hits. The Mets got some breathing space in the ninth, when Pete Alonso launched his first round-tripper of the year, a balloon that just barely cleared the left field fence with Lindor aboard.
With a six-run lead, Manager Luis Rojas felt comfortable enough to give the ball to old friend Jeurys Familia. He shouldn’t ever be that comfortable. Familia allowed Haseley an infield dribbler that Lindor couldn’t handle and bloop over Alonso’s head by Hoskins. Alonso made a horrid throw into Hoskins’s body, which allowed Haseley to score. Familia got a big strikeout of pinch hitter Andrew McCutchen, but then walked Harper. J.T. Realmuto hit into a force play. Hoskins waltzed around to third on consecutive pitches on the wonderfully euphemistic “defensive indifference” play. Finally, Gregorious flied out to Nimmo in center to end the foolishness.
Always good to get a win on the books, even if the bullpen makes you sweat.
4:05 start tomorrow from Citizens Bank Ballpark for the series finale.