The Mets bested the Pirates 6-3 at Citi Field, handing the struggling Bucs their sixth straight loss. Zack Wheeler had not made a start since July 7th due to shoulder fatigue, but was back on the mound for the opening game of this three game series. It was an important start for Wheeler, needing to prove to any contending team potentially interested in trading for his services that he is healthy and effective. He passed that test with flying colors and earned the win for his effort.
The Pirates struck first in the top of the second inning, collecting three straight hits to take a 1-0 lead. Josh Bell got things started by lining one into the gap in left-center. Michael Conforto dove for the ball, but it went behind him. Dominic Smith backed it up to keep Bell to a single, but he advanced to second anyway thanks to a single by Bryan Reynolds. Colin Moran then hit a sharp one-hopper to Amed Rosario, who was unable to get a clean handle on it, allowing Bell to score. Zack Wheeler rebounded and limited the damage, striking out Jung-Ho Kang and inducing two straight batted balls back to the pitcher.
The Mets rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the third inning. Amed Rosario was the spark, putting a charge into one that came close to going out of the ballpark, but glanced off of Starling Marte’s glove near the wall for a triple instead. Zack Wheeler was then hit by a pitch, which came back to bite Pirates starter Dario Agrazal when Jeff McNeil strode to the plate and hit a three-run homer right down the right field line that put the Mets in front 3-1. Wheeler and Agrazal traded zeros in the fourth, but Todd Frazier led off the fifth inning with a solo home run to extend the Mets’ lead to 5-1.
That run loomed large for the Mets. Wheeler, who had been cruising, began to show signs of fatigue in the sixth. He gave up a single to Melky Cabrera to lead off the inning and then threw a pitch right down the heart of the plate that he probably wishes he could take back. Adam Frazier did not miss it and suddenly the Pirates were within a run. Wheeler induced a fly ball to retire Starling Marte, but then gave up a hit to Josh Bell, which ended his day. Luis Avilan entered the game in relief of Wheeler and got the job done, retiring Reynolds on a popup and Moran on a groundout to short.
The Mets immediately answered with a pair of solo homers in the bottom of the frame. Pete Alonso led off the inning with an impressive shot into the second deck, which chased Agrazal out of the game. Michael Feliz came in the game and recorded the first out, but then gave up a solo homer to Wilson Ramos that stretched the Mets’ lead to 6-3.
The bullpen, which has been quite good since the All-Star break, put in impressive work in relief of Wheeler. After Avilan got out of the sixth inning, Robert Gsellman was tasked with the seventh. He walked the leadoff hitter, but that baserunner was erased on a double play. Amed Rosario then had his second iffy defensive moment of the game when Jose Osuna hit a grounder into the hole between shortstop and third base. Rosario did well to get to the ball quickly, but he did not make a good throw and the ball eluded Alonso, advancing Osuna to second base on the play. But Gsellman again delivered just what he needed, striking out Melky Cabrera to end the inning.
It was a similar story for Justin Wilson, who had to work out of a jam that was created, in part, by poor defense behind him. He surrendered a leadoff double to Adam Frazier, but then induced a popup off the bat of Marte. Pete Alonso got to the popup in plenty of time, but dropped the ball, allowing Marte to reach base safely. But Wilson buckled down and struck out the National League RBI leader Josh Bell and escaped the inning on a 4-6-3 double play grounder by Reynolds.
With Edwin Diaz unavailable due to taking a Manny Machado liner off his toe in Thursday afternoon’s game, the Mets turned to Seth Lugo to close things out. Lugo retired the Pirates in order, needing just eight pitches to do so, and earned his first save of the season.
The Mets look to earn a series victory with Steven Matz on the hill, facing off against Trevor Williams.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jeff McNeil, +23.7% WPA
Big losers: None
Total pitcher WPA: +8.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: +41.4% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jeff McNeil’s go-ahead homer in the third inning, +26.6% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Adam Frazier’s sixth inning home run, -16.6% WPA