Until tonight, it had been a while since the Mets enjoyed a laugher of a win. You'd probably have to go back to April 19th, when the Mets and Matt Harvey beat the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg 7-1 at Citi Field. But even that game wasn't quite in the bag until the Mets scored three runs in the eighth inning. It's mostly been a season during which no Mets lead is safe until the final out is recorded. So tonight's 9-4 Mets win over the Yankees was a rarity, a chance for Mets fans to sit back in their seats and enjoy a cold beverage as their favorite team delivered a largely hassle-free victory.
The fun tonight began early, as the Mets scored five runs in the first inning against Yankees starting pitcher David Phelps. Ruben Tejada responded to rumors of a possible demotion to Triple-A Vegas with a leadoff single on the second pitch of the game. Daniel Murphy drove him home one pitch later and it was 1-0, good guys. David Wright drew a walk -- a common occurrence this season -- and Lucas Duda struck out to account for the first out of the inning. That brought up a slumping John Buck, who had just a .599 OPS in May heading into tonight. Buck came through, however, hitting a line-drive RBI single to right field to bring home Murphy. After Rick Ankiel walked, Marlon Byrd stepped up to the plate for what turned out to be the most pivotal plate appearance of both the inning and the game. He hit a groundball to third baseman Jayson Nix, who turned a tailor-made double play opportunity into an error. The Mets scored a run on the play and the inning continued. Ike Davis made the Yankees pay for that error with a two-run single which gave the Mets a 5-0 lead. Ike's hit chased Phelps, who had pitched reasonably well of late.
Now, a 5-0 lead in the first inning is great, but it didn't immediately seal victory for the Mets. Not with Jeremy Hefner pitching against a lefty-heavy lineup and the Yankee Stadium short porch in right field looming. Hefner assuaged any worries of a Yankees comeback though, holding the Yanks scoreless through the first three innings and giving up three runs in six total innings of work. Hefner's start was far from dominant -- he generated just seven swinging strikes and allowed a no-doubter home run to Brennan Boesch -- but he struck out five and didn't issue any walks. He pitched like a guy with a big lead; good for him and his mates for finally winning a game that he started. Hefner's shakiest inning was the sixth, during which he allowed four baserunners and two runs. He managed to slither out of trouble, stranding two Yankees in the process. The Mets held an 8-3 lead when Scott Rice relieved Hefner to start the seventh inning.
The Mets scored four runs after the first inning on a solo home run by Byrd in the third, a two-run double by Duda in the fourth, and an RBI single by Ankiel in the ninth. Byrd's home run was a cheapy, as it bounced off the top of the right-field wall, just out of the grasp of a leaping Boesch.
Some bullet notes:
- Tejada was partly to blame for Hefner's shaky sixth inning. Our young shortstop hesitated throwing the ball to first base on a routine groundball hit by Boesch, who beat the throw. For some reason, Tejada looked to home and third base before making the throw, despite the Mets' 8-1 lead at the time. He left the game in the ninth inning with an apparent thigh injury, after making an awkward slide while in pursuit of a foul pop-up down the left field line. As bad as Tejada has been at the plate this season (.209/.267/.262, yuck) he's been just as bad in the field.
- Scott Rice struck out three batters in 1.2 innings of relief. His walk rate is a tad too high but he's owned left-handed batters and now sports a tidy 3.16 ERA. He's on pace to appear in 97 games and I bet he would love to do just that.
- Ike went 2-for-5 with two well-struck singles. If he plays tomorrow, he'll have a chance to do something he hasn't done all season: notch at least two hits in back-to-back games.
- Byrd went 2-for-5 with the aforementioned home run but I still don't understand the point of keeping him around. He's old and has no future with the team. Why even bother with him?
- Anyone else tired of the constant talk on SNY about Duda's first-pitch approach at the plate? It seems like Gary, Keith, Ron, Kevin, or someone on the postgame show brings it up every game. Enough I say!
The Mets will try to win their fifth in a row -- and fourth in a row against the Yankees -- Thursday at 7:05 pm. The pitching matchup is RHP Dillon Gee vs LHP Vidal Nuno.
Unintentionally sexual quote of the game: "He was getting firm on his front side" -- Bobby Valentine during the postgame show (via @omniality)
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Daniel Murphy +10.2%, Marlon Byrd +9.8%
Big losers: Lucas Duda -2.0%, Mike Baxter -0.7%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy RBI double in the first inning, +11.5%
Teh sux0rest play: Lucas Duda strikeout in the first inning with the bases loaded, -4.6%
Total pitcher WPA: +12.0%
Total batter WPA: +38.0%
GWRBI!: Ike Davis two-run single in the first inning