The Mets’ 5-1 win over the Rays began like nearly every other game Jacob deGrom has started this season: low-scoring heading into the late innings with the sense of inevitable heartbreak hanging in the air. But this time the ending was different. The heartbreak didn’t come and Jose Bautista hit the first walk-off home run of his career—a career that has been littered with notable home runs.
It began like nearly every other game Jacob deGrom has started this season. He gave up just one run—a single mistake to shortstop Willy Adames—in eight innings. Lucky for deGrom’s ERA, Daniel Robertson was caught stealing immediately prior to Adames’ home run. It was the 57th time deGrom had given up one run or fewer in his first 125 major league starts—a major league record. He was unflappable when things did not go as planned. When Kevin Kiermaier caught the Mets flat-footed to start the game, stretching a single into a hustle double, deGrom got out of it. When Mallex Smith got a triple as a result of Bautista’s bad route combined with an unsecured bullpen door, deGrom got out of it. When he fleetingly lost his pinpoint control as he began to tire in the eighth and hit Carlos Gomez with a pitch and allowed him to advance to second on a stolen base, he got out of it.
It began like nearly every other game Jacob deGrom has started this season. The Mets scored just one run—a single mistake by shortstop Willy Adames—in eight innings. The Rays used their patented opener approach, as relief pitcher Ryne Stanek started the game and flashed electric stuff over his two innings of work. He struck out three in the first, working around a Bautista walk, and pitched a scoreless second, surrendering only a single to Devin Mesoraco. Stanek was replaced in the third with Ryan Yarbrough, who was tagged with an unearned run when a grounder off the bat of Brandon Nimmo was misplayed, allowing Nimmo to go to second and eventually come around to score on an Asdrubal Cabrera RBI single. But Yarbrough limited the damage to just the one run, striking out Michael Conforto and getting Wilmer Flores to line out to short. Conforto would go on to strike out three times on the night.
Former Mets farmhand Adam Kolarek pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning, but was removed in favor of Diego Castillo when he surrendered a leadoff single to Conforto in the sixth. Flores then hit a grounder to short and did well to avoid getting doubled up. But when Todd Frazier smacked a double that probably would have scored most base runners, Flores—who was foolishly sent by Glenn Sherlock—was gunned down easily at the plate. Mesoraco then struck out swinging to end the inning, squandering the Mets’ best opportunity to earn deGrom a win.
The Mets had another chance to capitalize on a Rays error when Matt Duffy misplayed a ball off the bat of Bautista to lead off the eighth inning. However, this time they were unsuccessful, as Jose Alvarado retired both Cabrera and Conforto. Chaz Roe was then brought in to face Flores. Bautista stole second without a throw, giving Flores the chance to play the late-inning hero once again. But he hit a check swing roller to first base to end the inning.
It began like nearly every other game Jacob deGrom has started this season. He walked into the dugout after eight brilliant innings with a no-decision and Jeurys Familia loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, as Mets fans collectively braced themselves for another deGrom gem squandered by the bullpen. With one out, old Mets foe Wilson Ramos walked to start the rally. The Rays pinch ran Hunter Wood for Ramos, hoping the pitcher’s legs would be fast enough to carry the go-ahead run home. And they very nearly did. A Joey Wendle single and a Robertson hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no place for Familia to put Mallex Smith. Smith hit a bouncer to Flores that seemed destined to be a home-to-first double play. But Flores threw a lollipop to Mesoraco who did well to reach up and grab it and tag the sliding Wood just in time to prevent the go-ahead run from crossing the plate. Familia then got a huge strikeout of Adames to escape the jam.
The Rays left Roe in to try to send the game to extra innings. Todd Frazier led off the inning with a walk. Mesoraco, like many Mets before him, made it abundantly obvious that he is not experienced in the world of sacrifice bunts. But after showing bunt a couple of times to draw the infielders in, Mesoraco worked a favorable count and slapped a single past third base that would have been a groundout with the infield back. Amed Rosario, who has been working on his bunting craft, showed the fruits of that labor by executing a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third with one out. Dominic Smith then came to the plate as a pinch hitter and grounded out to first on the first pitch he saw and once again the Mets seemed in danger of turning a deGrom gem into a prolonged and anguished defeat full of missed opportunities.
But this time the ending was different. This time Jose Bautista crushed a baseball with two outs and the bases loaded and stared in amazement as it sailed into the second deck in left field. This time seasoned walk-off hero Wilmer Flores showered Gatorade all over a new Mets walk-off hero, a player over a decade his senior. And it was nice.
The Mets look to make it three in a row, as Steven Matz matches up against Rays ace Blake Snell for a Saturday matinee at Citi Field.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jose Bautista, +46.3% WPA, Jacob deGrom, +38.9% WPA
Big losers: Dominic Smith, -20.8% WPA, Wilmer Flores, -18.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jose Bautista’s walk-off grand slam, +34.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Dominic Smith’s groundout back to the pitcher in the bottom of the ninth, -20.8% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +52% WPA
Total batter WPA: -2% WPA
GWRBI!: Jose Bautista