Oh, what might have been…
The Mets looked primed to take a major step towards securing the NL East Division title. Looks can be deceiving. For ordinary mortals, Jacob deGrom’s stat line would be impressive: six innings, five hits, no walks, 11 strikeouts, three earned runs. That last bit was the problem. deGrom was rocked for three home runs – the first time that’s happened since 2019 – in the fourth consecutive start in which he has not looked like himself. Austin Riley and Matt Olson tagged him for back-to-back shots, to center and right-centerfield in the second, Dansby Swanson sent a long swat to left-centerfield in the sixth.
The Mets got off quickly against Max Fried, scratching out a run in the top of the second on singles by Jeff McNeil and Eduardo Escobar, aided and abetted by some defensive hijinks by Braves left fielder Eddie Rosario, and after a double play by heralded rookie Francisco Alvarez – more from him in a minute – a clutch base hit from Luis Guillorme.
After deGrom exited after six with a blood-blister, the Braves added on in the seventh off Tylor Megill. A leadoff single by Olsen and a ringing double off the fence by ol’ buddy Travis d’Arnaud put runners on second and third with nobody out. With trumpet sounds echoing all around Truist Park, William Contreras popped out to first. Rosario then sent a fly ball to right center, just deep enough to score Olsen. Orlando Arcia then hit a double of his own for the fifth Atlanta tally.
Tomas Nido tried to wake up the somnolent New York bats with a rope into the first row of the left field stands with one out in the eighth. It almost worked. In the ninth, facing supreme closer Kenley Jansen, Francisco Lindor struck out leading off. Mark Canha then provided his specialty: he got hit by a pitch. On ball one to McNeil, Canha took second on defensive indifference. McNeil roped a liner up the middle and Canha crossed to third. Hero Escobar worked out a walk to load the bases, bringing up Alvarez. The kid is twenty years old, in his first major league game. He’d hit the ball hard twice: that double play in the second and a fly to deep center in the seventh. Here he was with the tying run on first in a game with huge playoff implications. Understandably, he was jumping out of his shoes to give the Mets the lead. Predictably, he struck out on three big swings, the last of which sent his bat to the Mets on deck circle. That brought up Tyler Naquin, who had come into the game to take over in right field when Guillorme was pinch-hit for in the eighth. In what was close to an epic at bat, he took a ball on the first pitch, fouled off four in a row, took another ball, then swung through one of Jansen’s patented cutters for the ballgame.