After a shaky first series of the season against the Nationals, the Mets won the first game of their series against Cincinnati on the strength of a pair of home runs by Lucas Duda. This strategy seems to be working for the Mets, as they won again today on the strength of two more home runs, a two-run shot by Curtis Granderson in the fifth inning and a walk-off grand slam by Ike Davis.
The bullpen looked very solid in this outing, allowing only a single baserunner over 1⅔ innings of work, and Dillon Gee pitched into the seventh inning, making it the longest start by a Mets pitcher so far in this young season. In the early going, this game had all the makings of a pitchers' duel, with two opening day starters facing off. With Dillon Gee, the de facto staff ace on the mound, the Mets were hoping for something more than the four-earned-run, 6⅓ inning performance he had provided on Opening Day. Opposing Gee was Johnny Cueto, the staff ace for the Reds, who was coming into the game having pitched seven innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts in his last start.
Dillon Gee rolled through the first with an easy 1-2-3 inning, however the Mets were unable to muster any offense in the bottom of the first. Eric Young led off the game with a strikeout, his first of two on the day. With eight strikeouts in his first 16 at-bats one has to wonder how much longer Terry Collins can justify batting him in the leadoff spot, even with his prodigious speed.
The second inning again saw Gee face the minimum, while the Mets put together an ultimately unsuccessful scoring threat. After a Lucas Duda strikeout, Juan Lagares drew a walk, which was followed by an Anthony Recker check-swing ground out, advancing Lagares to second base. Cueto countered by intentionally walking Ruben Tejada to put runners on first and second with two out. A balk by Cueto then advanced the runners to second and third, but Dillon Gee then struck out to end the inning.
In the third inning Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart recorded his first major league hit, a single past the outstretched glove of a leaping Daniel Murphy. Cueto attempted to bunt Barnhart into scoring position, but Recker fielded the bunt cleanly and made a great throw to second base to nail the lead runner. A Roger Bernadina groundout ended the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Eric Young reached first on a fielding error by Brandon Phillips, who allowed a routine grounder to get past his glove. Young was promptly erased from the basepaths when Daniel Murphy grounded into a double play.
Zack Cozart both flew out, which brought up Barnhart again. Barnhart flared a ball over Daniel Murphy, who was unable to make the catch over the shoulder, allowing the ball to fall in for a single. Gee then gave up a single to the pitcher Cueto to put runners on first and second, but struck out Roger Bernadina to end the threat.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Mets recorded their first hit of the day, a solidly struck double to the gap by Ruben Tejada. At that point, Mets fans breathed a sigh of relief as they knew that they wouldn't be no-hit today. The runner in scoring position was squandered, however, as Dillon Gee hit a shallow fly out and Eric Young recorded his second strikeout of the day to end the inning.
During the bottom of the sixth, the Mets finally got on the board. Murphy started the inning off with a single, but was then thrown out at second on a fielder's choice by David Wright. This brought up Curtis Granderson, who hit a no-doubt home run to give the Mets their first runs of the day and a 2-1 lead. This was the first of what we all hope will be many home runs by Granderson in a Mets uniform.
The seventh inning passed by mostly uneventfully, with Gee giving up his first walk of the game to Todd Frazier, but otherwise retiring the side with little difficulty. The Mets were retired in similar fashion, with only a single baserunner in the form of an Eric Young infield single. This marked the first hit of the season for the Mets' leadoff hitter, raising his batting average by over a billion times its value at the start of the day. Cueto exited after the seventh, giving him a final line of 7 IP, 2 ER, 5H, 3BB, and 9K.
In the eighth inning, Gee's tendency to give up home runs and his struggles with facing hitters the third time through a lineup both manifested simultaneously. He began the inning by giving up a leadoff double to pinch hitter Chris Heisey, who was replacing the departed Cueto. A sacrifice bunt advanced Heisey to third base, and prompted a coaching visit to the mound. Whatever Dan Warthen told Gee, it clearly didn't work as Brandon Phillips smacked a two-run shot into the stands to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. This was the end of Gee's day, as the Mets brought in Scott Rice to finish the frame. Rice did a good job of preventing any further damage, inducing a ground out from Joey Votto and striking out Jay Bruce to end the inning. Gee finished the afternoon with a final line of 7.1 IP, 3 ER, 6H, 1BB, and 4K.
In the ninth inning, the Mets brought in Carlos Torres to keep the score close. Torres pitched well, recording two strikeouts and one line out while giving up a single to Todd Frazier. This brought the Mets down to their final three outs, with Juan Lagares, Anthony Recker, and Ruben Tejada scheduled to come to the plate.
Facing J.J. Hoover, Lagares started the inning off with a walk, and Recker attempted to bunt him over to second base. Lagares appeared to reach second before the throw, but was called out by second base umpire James Hoye. Terry Collins immediately challenged the ruling, with video clearly showing that Lagares had beaten the throw. The call was overturned, marking the first ever successful challenge for the Mets (and a good point to keep in mind for trivia fans). This gave the Mets runners at first and second with no outs. Ruben Tejada, squaring to bunt throughout his at-bat, drew a walk on a 3-2 count to load the bases for the pitcher's spot.
The Mets turned to their oft-maligned but massively powerful first baseman Ike Davis to attempt to get the tying or winning run in. He rewarded the Mets in grand fashion, hitting a no-doubt walk-off grand slam to win the game.
With this win, the Mets have extended their winning streak to a season-long two games and given the fans some genuine excitement in the process. It was great to see the bullpen come in and record five stress-free outs for the team, keeping the Mets in the game until they could mount their thrilling comeback. Given Davis's recent struggles, we can only hope that this moment can help him build confidence and show some of the potential he's flashed at times in the past.
The Mets will go for the sweep tomorrow, with Jon Niese facing off against Alfredo Simon. With Niese on a supposed 90-pitch limit tomorrow, Gee making it deep into this game was critical, as it gave most of the bullpen a chance to rest after a number of short starts from the rotation.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Ike Davis, 28.2%, Curtis Granderson 29.3%
Big losers: Dillon Gee, -45.3%, David Wright, -11.7%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Ike Davis walk off grand slam, 100%
Teh sux0rest play: Brandon Phillips 2-run HR, 24.1%
Total pitcher WPA: -27.8%
Total batter WPA: 77.8%
GWRBI!: Ike Davis pinch hit grand slam, bottom of the 9th inning