It certainly feels like every victory the 2018 Mets have had has been a nail-biting rollercoaster ride. Friday night was certainly no exception, as the Mets pulled out a victory over the Braves in twelve innings in Atlanta on the back of a fantastic performance by the bullpen and some timely hitting.
The Braves started off the game with a bang when young Braves upstart Ozzie Albies sent a 99.6 mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard over the right field wall for a solo homer in the first inning with one out. As it turns out, that was the last time the Braves would lead in the game. Syndergaard escaped any further damage in the first by inducing a pop-up from Freddie Freeman, on which Todd Frazier made a nice play, negotiating the tarp in foul territory to record the out. Nick Markakis then grounded out to second to end the inning.
Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland was seen in the dugout giving Syndergaard some guidance after the first inning, cautioning him to keep his shoulder from flying open. Thor didn’t have his best stuff tonight the way he did in his last start against the Brewers and struggled a bit with his command, especially on his slider, but he kept his team in the ballgame, despite poor defense being played behind him by the Mets. He had to labor in the second inning, getting Kurt Suzuki to fly out to left field, but then giving up a single to Preston Tucker. Syndergaard then got the ground ball he needed from Dansby Swanson, but Tucker was safe at second on the attempted double-play turn, leading to a 5-4-3 putout instead. Ryan Flaherty then hit a dribbler past the mound that Syndergaard failed to field, leaving Cabrera to attempt to sling the ball to first in vain. Flaherty then, predictably, stole second base, but Syndergaard was able to escape with the pitcher Sean Newcomb at the plate, striking him out to end the inning.
Meanwhile the Mets struggled to get to Newcomb early in the game. Coming into the night, the Mets were hitting a collective .218 against left-handed pitching, making Mickey Callaway’s choice to play Jay Bruce over Juan Lagares seem even more questionable. Newcomb faced the minimum through the first two innings, but the Mets struck in the third. Tomas Nido singled to lead off the inning, after working a ten-pitch at-bat. Noah Syndergaard then struck out. But with the outfield playing way too shallow and not respecting Amed Rosario’s power, Rosario made them pay by smacking a double to right-center field, tying the game at 1-1. Rosario then advanced to third on a shoddy throw from the outfield. Michael Conforto, who has otherwise looked somewhat lost at the plate lately, drove a ball to the warning track in left field, more than deep enough to score Rosario and give the Mets the lead, 2-1.
Syndergaard was able to work around a single and yet another stolen base in the third inning. The Mets added a run in the top of the fourth inning, aided by a stolen base of their own from Todd Frazier, who took second after getting on base with a walk. Wilmer Flores then slashed a base-hit the other way down the line, scoring Frazier to put the Mets up 3-1. However, Flores was gunned down at second base, the first of two times he was thrown out in a situation where most baserunners would probably be safe. Jay Bruce, who has been struggling mightily at the plate, then flew out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, with two men out, Dansby Swanson smacked a single between third and short. Ryan Flaherty then hit a line drive almost right at Jay Bruce, who misjudged the ball, letting it sail over his head, scoring Swanson to make it 3-2. The official scorer generously awarded Flaherty a double on the play, which resulted in a perhaps unjustified blemish to Syndergaard’s pitching line. Syndergaard limited the damage by striking out the pitcher Newcomb to end the inning. He followed that up by throwing his first 1-2-3 inning of the night in the fifth.
The sixth inning began with a fly ball into foul territory hit by Asdrubal Cabrera, on which a fan reached over the wall to interfere with Nick Markakis’ attempt to catch it. After replay review, this was deemed fan interference and Cabrera was called out. Todd Frazier was retired on a strikeout, but then Wilmer Flores dumped a bloop single into center field. Jay Bruce followed that up with a bloop of his own—a double—but Flores was once again gunned down, this time at home plate in a very close play, due to his lack of foot speed and the Mets failed to score.
The Mets’ defense faltered yet again in the sixth, when Nick Markakis attempted to stretch a single into a double, challenging Yoenis Cespedes’ arm. Cespedes unleashed a perfect throw to second, but Asdrubal Cabrera was unable to handle the bounce, so Markakis was left standing on second base with nobody out. Markakis then advanced to third on what was scored a wild pitch, but was a ball that Tomas Nido likely should have blocked. Kurt Suzuki then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, 3-3. But once again, Thor was able to stop the bleeding by retiring Preston Tucker on a ground out to third and striking out Dansby Swanson, his sixth and final strikeout.
This closed the book on Syndergaard, who pitched a good—not great—game, but was also victimized by some poor defense on the part of the Mets. Seth Lugo replaced Syndergaard, throwing two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, assisted—to the shock and awe of Mets fans everywhere—by Tomas Nido throwing out a runner trying to steal in both innings, the latter aided by a successfully executed pitchout.
Dan Winkler pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Braves in the seventh, striking out three Mets and working around a pinch-hit walk by Brandon Nimmo. The Mets squandered an opportunity in the eighth when Asdrubal Cabrera doubled off of Shane Carle with one out and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Todd Frazier then popped up in the key spot for the second out. Wilmer Flores got a hold of one, but it wasn’t quite enough, as it was caught on the warning track in left to end the inning.
The Mets also had a small glimmer of hope in the ninth inning when Tomas Nido worked out a walk against lefty A.J. Minter with one out. But Juan Lagares then pinch hit for Seth Lugo and promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play. A.J. Ramos pitched a scoreless ninth for the Mets, striking out two batters and displaying by far the best stuff we’ve seen from him all season.
The Mets went quietly against Arodys Vizcaino in the tenth, with Yoenis Cespedes earning a golden sombrero by striking out for the fourth time of the night. Robert Gsellman entered the game for the Mets and worked an easy 1-2-3 tenth, capped off with Asdrubal Cabrera making a nice play in the hole to rob Ender Inciarte of a single. Gsellman’s challenge came in the eleventh when, after retiring Albies on a groundout and overmatching Freddie Freeman to strike him out, he walked Markakis on a borderline 3-2 call. Kurt Suzuki then walked a long at-bat and singled, putting the potential game-winning run in scoring position with two down. The Tomahawk Chop was playing for pretty much every pitch at this point and I could feel my frustration rising. I wasn’t the only one; Ron Darling commented on it on the broadcast, calling it “irritating.” Gsellman buckled down and silenced the fans and the Chop, striking out Preston Tucker to end the inning.
With the Mets nearly out of pitching options, Gsellman batted for himself to lead off the twelfth inning against Josh Ravin, who had made relatively quick work of the Mets in the eleventh. Ravin gave the Mets a gift, grazing Gsellman’s uniform with a pitch to put him on first base. Amed Rosario then laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move Gsellman to second. Michael Conforto then popped out for the second out. Yoenis Cespedes then strode to the plate and as has been his way all season long, delivered in the clutch, smacking an RBI single to score Gsellman, who flew from second to home with surprising speed to put the Mets ahead, 4-3. Asdrubal Cabrera then put the cherry on top, driving in Cespedes to add the insurance run. However, for the final time of the night, the Mets ran themselves into an out on the base paths, as Cabrera ran past second base and then was tagged out trying to make it back to the bag.
It didn’t matter though, as Jeurys Familia came in and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to close the door and put the capper on this rollercoaster of a game, earning his eighth save of the season. Robert Gsellman secured the win and Josh Ravin was tagged with the loss.
The Mets will look to ride the high of this victory into tomorrow night’s game with their other ace on the mound when Jacob deGrom takes on Julio Teheran, a pitcher the Mets have historically struggled against.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Robert Gsellman, +28% WPA, Asdrubal Cabrera, +24.3% WPA, Yoenis Cespedes, +23.5% WPA
Big losers: Jay Bruce, -21.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Yoenis Cespedes’ game-winning RBI, +35% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Juan Lagares grounds into a double play in the ninth, -14% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +68% WPA
Total batter WPA: -18% WPA
GWRBI!: Yoenis Cespedes