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Mets rout Phillies, increase Wild Card lead

The Mets once trailed on Friday night. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the final score.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

You don’t draw up wins like the one the Mets got on Friday night on paper. You might not imagine them in a fever dream about baseball, either. But one of the old baseball clichés, that every time you watch a game you very well might see something you hadn’t seen before, was on display on Friday night as the Mets trounced the Phillies.

To be fair, the game was by no means the first bullpen game in the history of baseball. But the Mets, a team that’s trying to lock down a spot in the postseason, used six pitchers, and the one who lasted the longest was the last of the six. In the early innings, it seemed like Terry Collins was committed to not let any of his pitchers bat, but by the time the game was over, both Josh Smoker and Hansel Robles had made plate appearances.

Gabriel Ynoa, who started a game originally slated to be started by Steven Matz, was the first of those six pitchers. After throwing a scoreless first, he gave up a flurry of hard singles and a couple of runs in the second. When the Mets answered quickly with a run in the bottom of that inning, on a one-out double by Michael Conforto and a two-out double by Travis d’Arnaud, Ynoa’s night came to an end when Ty Kelly pinch hit for him.

Logan Verrett took over for Ynoa and was greeted rudely with a no-doubt home run off the bat of Maikel Franco that puts the Phillies up 3-1. He got Ryan Howard to fly out, though, and struck out the next two batters he faced, sparing the drama for his second inning of work. After the Mets went down in order in their half of the third, Verrett made things interesting in the top of the fourth. He got a couple of outs at the bottom of the Phillies’ order, but a walk, an infield single to second base that Kelly Johnson couldn’t quite turn into an out, and another walk later, the bases were loaded—for Maikel Franco. This time, Verrett induced the polar opposite of a home run, as Franco hit a weak ground ball back to the mound to end the inning.

Josh Smoker was called upon next, double-switched into the game in the eighth spot of the Mets’ lineup after Travis d’Arnaud, who had been in that spot, made the final out in a scoreless bottom of the fourth. Smoker looked fantastic, repeating what Verrett had done against Ryan Howard, Cameron Rupp, and Freddy Galvis: fly out, strikeout, strikeout. Like the two pitchers before him, Smoker was sent out for another inning, but he had to wait a bit to do that.

Let’s pause for a second to revisit the Mets’ starting lineup in the game. It looked pretty great:

  • Jose Reyes - 3B
  • Asdrubal Cabrera - SS
  • Yoenis Cespedes - LF
  • Curtis Granderson - CF
  • Kelly Johnson - 2B
  • Michael Conforto - RF
  • Lucas Duda - 1B
  • Travis d’Arnaud - C
  • Gabriel Ynoa - P

From Jeremy Hellickson’s perspective, the bottom of the fifth inning didn’t start out that poorly. He served up a hard-hit single to Rene Rivera, the other half of the d’Arnaud-Smoker double-switch, to begin the inning, but he got Jose Reyes to ground out. Rivera was on second, but still, it didn’t quite seem like the end of the world.

Then Hellickson walked Asdrubal Cabrera. He walked Yoenis Cespedes, too. Curtis Granderson singled, and Rivera scored. Kelly Johnson singled, too, and Cabrera scored. Phillies right fielder Roman Quinn booted the ball when it got to him, though, so Cespedes scored, too, and the Mets wound up with runners on second and third. The Phillies had seen enough of Hellickson at that point and turned to Frank Herrmann, one of several relievers who had pitched in Thursday night’s wild Mets win, to face Michael Conforto.

Having spent a couple of stints with Triple-A Las Vegas after struggling mightily since the beginning of May at the major league level, perhaps Conforto locked up some more playing time when he took Herrmann the other way, easily clearing the fence in left-center field for a three-run home run. The Mets’ odds of winning the game at hand increased drastically, as would their odds of making it to and through the playoffs if Conforto comes anywhere near his 2015 or April 2016 form.

That was it for the Mets’ scoring in the inning, as Duda struck out and Josh Smoker got his plate appearance and did the same. So Smoker returned to the mound, walked Cody Asche, and gave up a two-run home run to pinch hitter Darin Ruf. What had felt like a rout moments earlier was right back to feeling like a close game, and Terry Collins summoned Erik Goeddel from the pen.

He retired all three batters he faced in the sixth, but keeping with the theme of the night, he worked his way into trouble in his second inning of work. After a single, a walk, and a fly out, which advanced the runner on second to third, Goeddel’s night was over. Josh Edgin came in and gave up an infield single, which loaded the bases, and the Phillies lifted the left-handed-hitting Asche in favor of powerful right-handed hitter Tommy Joseph.

September baseball marched on, as the Mets immediately swapped out Edgin for Hansel Robles, whose monthly splits would make for a decent first draft if you were designing a rollercoaster. He quickly got Joseph to hit a grounder to Jose Reyes’s right, and Reyes snagged it, stepped on third, and threw to first with plenty of time to spare to ends the Phillies’ final threat of the night.

Robles pitched the rest of the way, and he needed only twenty pitches to get through his entire outing. He struck out three, didn’t walk anyone, and allowed just one baserunner of his own when Matt Reynolds made an error at short in the eighth.

As good as Robles looked in the end, the Mets and their fans could breathe a little easier going into the eighth after the team tacked on three runs, in fairly unorthodox fashion, in the seventh. Cespedes led off with a laser beam of a double, which definitely fits within the realm of the norm. The Phillies brought in a lefty, who walked Granderson. Terry Collins sent up Juan Lagares, who hasn’t been publicly declared well enough to swing a bat in a game, to bunt. And bunt he did, not particularly well, but Cameron Rupp came out from behind the plate and made a throwing error trying to get Cepsedes at third. Cespedes scored instead, the other runners moved up a base, and Collins—frustratingly—replaced the left-handed Conforto with the right-handed Eric Campbell.

Of course, Campbell singled, which was great since it scored Granderson. The frustration will just spill over if Conforto is really restricted to not facing middling left-handed relief pitchers the rest of the way. Collins stuck with the platoon-advantage pinch-hitting strategy, inserting T.J. Rivera for Lucas Duda, and—again, this being September—the Phillies were not having it. They brought in a righty, but Rivera still managed a sacrifice fly to center that brought home the Mets’ tenth and final run of the game.

As far as nine-inning games go, it was a really long one, but any Mets win at this stage is worth the wait. With losses by the Cardinals and Giants on Friday night, the Mets are a game up on San Francisco and a game-and-a-half up on St. Louis.

Maybe the good Michael Conforto is really back. Lucas Duda looked good in the game, hitting a hard double that got lost in the shuffle in the fourth inning since the Mets didn’t score at the time. And Asdrubal Cabrera fouled a ball off his knee, but after a couple minutes of walking it off, he stayed in the game until the Mets’ lead increased to five. Give that bat-flipping guy a raise.

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Box scores


Win Probability Added


What’s WPA?

Big winners: Hansel Robles, +24.4% WPA, Kelly Johnson, +21.0% WPA, Michael Conforto, +16.3% WPA, Curtis Granderson, +11.7% WPA
Big losers: Gabriel Ynoa, -14.7% WPA, Jose Reyes, -10.3% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Kelly Johnson singles to score Asdrubal Cabrera and—thanks to an error—Yoenis Cespedes in the fifth, +26.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Cesar Hernandez singles to score the Phillies’ first run of the game in the second inning, -12.5% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -15.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: +65.8% WPA
GWRBI!: Michael Conforto