The Mets entered Saturday on a seven-game winning streak and having just had a thrilling walk-off win against the Washington Nationals. They turned to Noah Syndergaard to maintain their momentum and continue to advance in the wild card standings. Thor did his job with seven sterling innings, and the bats once again refused to back down when they fell behind. The result was a 4-3 win which left the Amazins just half a game behind the Nationals in the wild card standings.
While the energy was high at first pitch, the Nationals quickly did what they could to change that. After Syndergaard struck out Trea Turner to lead off the game, he walked Adam Eaton and subsequently watched him steal second base. After getting Anthony Rendon to ground out to short, Juan Soto—who did his share of damage to the Mets on Friday night as well—mashed a two-run homer to center to give the Nationals a quick 2-0 lead. Syndergaard gave up two singles (to Mat Adams and former Met Asdrubal Cabrera, respectfully) following that bomb, but he managed to strikeout Victor Robles to limit the damage.
Facing off against Patrick Corbin, the Mets struggled to get anything going in the early innings of the game. They got just one baserunner in the first three innings—a Michael Conforto single in the second inning—and struck out five times against the Nats’ lefty pitcher. Syndergaard, meanwhile, continued to look shaky in his next two innings. He was bailed out by a great running catch from Juan Lagares in center field in the second, but he also gave up another hit and stolen base to Turner. He then allowed the first two batters of the third inning to reach base—via a single to left field from Rendon and a walk to Soto, respectfully. Still, he prevented any of those runners from scoring, and after pitching coach Phil Regan visited the mound in the third inning, Thor seemed to turn the corner—as demonstrated by the double play that he got immediately following the visit—and carried that momentum into the rest of the game.
His first clean inning came against the bottom of the Nationals lineup in the fourth. And in the bottom of the inning, the Mets offense finally struck. Following two easy outs on a tapper back to Corbin from Amed Rosario and a strikeout from Pete Alonso, J.D. Davis came to the plate, and the lefty crusher mashed a solo homer to left-center field to put the Mets on the board. But the fun did not end there, as Wilson Ramos—who was celebrating his 32nd birthday on Saturday—immediately followed that blast with an impressive shot of his own. Conforto fouled out to Rendon to end the inning, but just like that, the Mets had once again quickly overcome a multi-run deficit, and the game was tied at 2-2.
The next few innings went by without much offensive action, as Corbin quickly recomposed himself and Syndergaard got into a groove. The latter threw another perfect inning in the top of the fifth, and he was the only man to reach base in the bottom of the inning after working a two-out work and getting stranded at first. Thor gave up his first baserunner in a few innings in the sixth when he surrendered a one-out single to Adams, but he otherwise got through that inning unscathed as well. Not to be outdone, Corbin struck out the side in the bottom of the inning, leaving him with 94 pitches after six. With one out in the top of the seventh and his spot coming up, Davey Martinez elected to pinch-hit for his starting pitcher to try to get some offense. Pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson did his job by lacing a single to the opposite field, but it was all for naught, as Turner subsequently hit a sharp ground ball to second base, and not even his speed was able to prevent the Mets from turning the double play to end the inning and conclude Syndergaard’s night on a high note.
With Corbin out of the game, the Nationals turned to their bullpen. Hunter Strickland was the first man out, and he threw a perfect inning to send the game to the eighth inning. At this point, Mickey Callaway brought in Seth Lugo using a double switch, with the goal clearly being to use his best reliever to get through the eighth and ninth innings. It looked like a flawless strategy at first, as Lugo retired Adam Eaton on a fly ball left and struck out Rendon looking for the first two outs of the inning. But then disaster struck as Soto once again put the hurt on the Mets with a monstrous home run to deep right field, putting the Nats back out in front. Lugo retired Adams on a groundout to end the inning, but he nevertheless put the offense in a position where they would once again need to overcome a late-inning deficit.
The fact that the Mets quickly accomplished this goal is not terribly surprising, given how they’ve been performing in recent times. But the way in which they did it was certainly unexpected, as the first man up in the inning was Luis Guillorme (the same Luis Guillorme who came into the night with a 36 career wRC+), who was pinch hitting for Lagares. Facing off against Fernando Rodney, Guillorme worked a 3-2 count before smashing a ball into the right field stands for his first major league home run, and just like that the game was tied. The Mets were not content to end things there, however. The recently acquired Joe Panik (who entered the game along with Lugo in the double switch) was the next man up, and he reached first base on a throwing error by Turner. Jeff McNeil—who surprisingly did not have a hit up to this point in the game—was up next, and he laced a single to center field to keep the line moving as Panik moved up to second. Rodney exited the game at this point for Daniel Hudson, whose first better was Rosario. He hit a sharp ground ball which Hudson deflected and recovered in time to make the out at first, and Panik and McNeil both advanced a base. At this point, Martinez made the decision to intentionally walk Alonso and take his chances against Davis with the bases loaded and one out.
Having hit a homer earlier in the game, Davis just needed to hit a fly ball into the outfield to score the go-ahead run from third. He quickly fell behind in the count 0-2, but then he lifted a ball into deep right field, and Eaton’s only play after making the catch was to throw the ball to second base. Panik scored from third, and the Mets had their first lead of the night. Ramos subsequently came close to blowing the game wide open with a three-run homer to right-center field, but the ball did not quite carry far enough, and Robles was able to make a jumping catch to retire the side and leave the Mets with just a one-run lead going into the ninth.
But it turned out that one run was all the Mets would need. Lugo came back out for the ninth, and he forcefully redeemed himself for the homer he gave up to Soto in the eighth. First he got Cabrera to line out to Conforto in right field, and then he struck out Robles looking. Down to their final out, Martinez brought in Gerardo Parra to pinch-hit for Yan Gomes and try to get something going. But it was no use, as Lugo got another strikeout looking to end the game and send Citi Field into a frenzy.
The Mets have now won 14 out of their past 15 games, and they’ve ensured a series win against one of their main competitors for one of the two wild card spots. They will go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon at 1:10, and they could not have written a better script if they’d tried. Ace pitcher Jacob deGrom will be the one to take the mound against Anibal Sanchez as the team tries to make a huge statement about their legitimacy as playoff contenders.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Luis Guillorme, +32.5% WPA; J.D. Davis, +19.2% WPA; Noah Syndergaard, +13.5% WPA
Big losers: None
Total pitcher WPA: +5.0% WPA
Total batter WPA: +45.0% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Luis Guillorme’s game-tying home run in the eighth inning, +32.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Juan Soto’s go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, -31.2% WPA