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A big mess, but Mets manage sweep of Pirates

What should have been an easy win turned stressful in a hurry.

Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

There was some white-knuckling towards the end, but the Mets held on for an 8-7 over the Pirates to complete the sweep. An offensive eruption in the first built a six run lead, but Pittsburgh gradually chipped away, and the Met bullpen almost imploded in the ninth. Thankfully, the Pirates’ rally fell one run short, as Edwin Diaz righted the ship to close things out.

Before the wave of runs hit, the Mets got a bit of a scare when Jeff McNeil was hit in the shin by a pitch. A slider from Chris Archer that got away nailed McNeil in the shin, and he was slow getting up. He stayed in initially, but ultimately departed before his second plate appearances. X-rays were negative and the move was purely precautionary, so the Mets seem to have dodged what would have been a season-burying bullet.

Anyway, Conforto got payback for the hit batter immediately, lofting an opposite field home run to put the Mets up 2-0. Two walks and an RBI single from Todd Frazier made it 3-0, and two more RBI singles from J.D. Davis and Amed Rosario added two more. Aaron Altherr - replacing Jeff McNeil atop the lineup - capped the inning with a sacrifice fly, stretching the lead to a whopping six runs. It’s the Mets’ second biggest first inning of the season, trailing only the eight runs they put up in Miami earlier this year.

Gifted a huge cushion, Vargas got to cruise. He worked around consistent traffic on the basepaths and let the Pirates chip away bit-by-bit, but ultimately prevented any big blowups and preserved the lead. He finished with a very Vargas-like line in what could be his final start as a Met; 5.2 innings, five strikeouts, six hits, three walks, and three runs allowed. His Met tenure certainly didn’t start very well, but he’s finished it solidly over the last couple months.

With the lead chipped down to three, Seth Lugo entered with a runner on first and two outs. He continued what has been a nearly perfect July, striking out Kevin Newman to end the threat. In the bottom half, a double and an infield single set the table for Michael Conforto, who laced a sinking line drive to center that Starling Marte botched. Adeiny Hechavarria raced home to score, and a ground out drove in Aaron Altherr - two unearned runs that seemed inconsequential at the time, but ultimately proved critical.

Lugo tossed another scoreless inning, and Justin Wilson followed with one of his own to send the game to the ninth. Tylor Bashlor took the mound with an 8-3 lead, but only recorded one out, giving up a two-run homer and an infield single that created a save situation. Mickey Callaway didn’t take any chances and called on Edwin Diaz, but the mercurial closer immediately gave up a two-run home run as well. Suddenly the lead was only 8-7.

With everyone in the building white-knuckling, Diaz bore down. With every win so critically important as the trade deadline looms, blowing a six-run lead would have been back breaking. Mercifully, Diaz stabilized, inducing a pop out and a ground out to end the game. The much needed win is the Mets’ 4th straight, completing a sweep of the Pirates and improving their record to 50-55 on the year.

Realistically, the Mets will not make the playoffs, but they continue to win just barely enough to keep things interesting. It’ll be really interesting to see how this deadline plays out, particularly with rumors continuing to swirl around pieces that should be a part of this teams core (Noah Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz). With that back drop, the Mets will have an off day tomorrow before starting an important (and very winnable) series with White Sox on Tuesday.

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Win Probability Added

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Michael Conforto, +18.9% WPA
Big losers: None
Total pitcher WPA: +9.3% WPA
Total batter WPA: +40.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Michael Conforto hits a two-run home run in the first, +17.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Melky Cabrera drives in Starling Marte with a fifth-inning double, -5.2% WPA