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Mets come out on top in Royal Rumble

Despite their manager’s best efforts, the Mets take the rubber game.

New York Mets v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After a rough start from Zack Wheeler, the offense exploded in the late innings to top the Royals 11-5. The Mets had eight hits and six runs in the seventh, and Pete Alonso capped off the win with his 40th home run of the season in the ninth, giving him sole possession of the National League rookie record. All this happened in spite of some truly awful management from Mickey Callaway, including one decision that could have serious ramifications for the stretch run.

The offense wasted no time against Royals starter Glenn Sparkman, as Amed Rosario took the fourth pitch of the game the other way for a leadoff single. Rosario was erased on a failed hit-and-run play, but Mickey Callaway would go unpunished for his first blunder of the day. Joe Panik tripled, Pete Alonso worked a walk (complete with an intentional ball four), and Michael Conforto hit a down-and-in changeup to the moon for a three-run home run. Very quickly, the Mets had a 3-0 lead.

Zack Wheeler also got off to a fast start. Like Jacob deGrom yesterday, Wheeler didn’t allow a hit through the first three innings, though he did walk one. The Royals finally broke through in the fourth, when Hunter Dozier grounded a double down the left field line. Jorge Soler then reached on catcher interference before a wild pitch put two in scoring position. Wheeler prevented a blowup with a pair of ground outs, but the no-hitter and the shutout were gone.

Unfortunately, Kansas City’s offense was far from done. A pair of singles and a throwing error by Wheeler loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, and another single drove home one. Nicky Lopez followed with an RBI ground out, and Dozier followed that with a sacrifice fly. In just about the most Royals way possible - giving some of us flashbacks to 2015 - the Mets had blown the lead, now finding themselves in a 4-3 hole.

As the Royals were breaking through, the Met offense was getting shut down. Sparkman allowed only one baserunner after Conforto’s home run, a walk that was erased on a double play. The Mets finally put together a scoring threat in the sixth thanks to singles from Joe Panik an Pete Alonso, but Sparkman worked out of that jam too. It seemed very much to be a repeat of the first two games of the series, where the Mets went 3-for-19 with RISP.

The seventh inning was a different story. With Kevin McCarthy replacing Sparkman for the Royals, Todd Frazier led off with a BABIP-blessed bloop double. Juan Lagares followed with a sacrifice bunt - why he’s bunting is an excellent question - before J.D. Davis pinch hit with an RBI single. Davis, who is dealing with a sore calf, was then left in the game to run, a decision that appeared highly questionable after he pulled up coming around third on Tomas Nido’s double. Not pinch running for Davis and, by extension, expecting him to play the outfield on a bum leg is an indictment both of the front office and of Mickey Callaway, who continues to make poor managerial decisions at most every opportunity. Hopefully Davis did not exacerbate his injury, because the Mets badly need his bat in the lineup.

Anyway, Davis came out of the game at that point, replaced on the base paths by Ruben Tejada. A single from Amed Rosario drove in two to give the Mets the lead, and that was it for Kevin McCarthy. Richard Lovelady replaced him and allowed the hit parade to continue; the next four Mets reached base to stretch the lead to 9-4. Wilson Ramos was thrown out on a truly hideous slide at second base on a passed ball and Frazier struck out to end the inning, but the Mets had flipped the script with a six run top of the seventh.

At this point, Callaway made another bad decision, asking Jeurys Familia - who had pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth - to pitch the seventh. Even at his best, Familia was never very good at getting up and down, and 25-minutes is a long break for any pitcher. Moreover, guys like Walter Lockett are on the roster for situations where you have a five run lead, and using one of your more important relievers (if his recent resurgence is to be believed) in this spot made little sense.

The Royals managed one run off of Familia in the seventh, and the ball even found Amed Rosario in left field a couple times as he made his first professional appearance on the grass. He definitely didn’t look comfortable, but he has the athletic tools and should probably be getting more pregame reps out there with the current state of the Mets’ depth chart. Amed also added another RBI hit in the top half of the eighth, a double that stretched the lead to 10-5 for his first hit as an outfielder.

Brad Brach pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, bringing Pete Alonso to the plate leading off the top of the ninth. Polar Bear Pete turned on an 0-2 pitch that was practically at his eyeballs and ripped his 40th home run of the season down the left field line. The blast broke Cody Bellinger’s NL rookie home run record, and leaves Alonso 12 behind Aaron Judge for the overall rookie record. Alonso is also one short of the Mets’ club record (41 by Carlos Beltran in 2006 and Todd Hundley in 1996), a record he likely will have smashed by the end of the season.

Edwin Diaz came on for the ninth - a good spot for him to work through his issues - and put the Royals down in order to secure the rubber game. The Mets are now 64-60, sitting in a three way tie with the Brewers and the Phillies in the standings, 1.5 games back of the Cubs for the second wild card. They’ll have Monday off before starting a big home stand against the Indians, Braves, and Cubs.

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Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big winners: Michael Conforto, +18.7% WPA; Pete Alonso, +16.% WPA; Tomas Nido, +13.2% WPA; Joe Panik, +11.7% WPA; Amed Rosario, +11.3% WPA; J.D. Davis, +10.6% WPA
Big losers: Zack Wheeler, -25.3% WPA; Wilson Ramos, -14.2% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -18.1% WPA
Total batter WPA: +68.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Michael Conforto launches a three-run home run in the first, +18.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Whit Merrifield hits an RBI single in the fifth, -12.3% WPA