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Mets rally late to win pitchers’ duel between two Cy Young hopefuls

Jacob deGrom and Hyun-Jin Ryu were equally brilliant, but Rajai Davis came up big with the key hit in the eighth.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets evened their series with the Dodgers juggernaut at one game apiece with an exciting late-inning 3-0 victory at Citi Field. The game was every bit the pitchers’ duel that was promised by the matchup on paper. Hyun Jin-Ryu was utterly dominant in the first half of the season, but has struggled mightily of late—so much so that his turn in the rotation was skipped over during the Dodgers’ series in Baltimore. Jacob deGrom, on the other hand, had a couple of missteps very early in the season but entered this game at the peak of his powers once more. Both pitchers are very much in contention for the National League Cy Young Award and nothing about that changed based on tonight’s performances.

The Mets managed just two hits off Ryu in his seven innings of work—two-out singles by Robinson Cano and Amed Rosario in the second and third inning, respectively. He also did not walk a single batter and struck out six, a high total for a contact pitcher like Ryu. deGrom matched zeros with him every step of the way. Unsurprisingly, deGrom recorded more strikeouts, fanning eight Dodgers over seven scoreless innings. By the time he was through six innings, deGrom had retired fourteen batters in a row.

deGrom showed his first signs of cracking in the seventh. With two outs, he gave up back-to-back singles to Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock—the latter on his first truly fat pitch of the night. He was clearly fatigued, but he did what he always does. He got the strikeout in the big spot when he needed it. He struck out the rookie Gavin Lux, who had burned Noah Syndergaard and the Mets the night before, to end the inning.

Leading off the bottom of the inning, Jeff McNeil hit a grounder to second and immediately after the play at first motioned to the umpire that he was safe and looked to the dugout to challenge the call. Whether McNeil’s immediate and adamant reaction was due to the Mets’ desperate desire to get something started to get deGrom a win, McNeil’s natural determination and stubbornness, or a combination of the two, we’ll never know. But, the Mets did challenge the call because it appeared that the first baseman Max Muncy’s foot was a hair off the bag as McNeil’s foot touched first base. However, the umpiring crew in Chelsea did not feel there was sufficient evidence to overturn the call and the out call stood. Ryu then ended his night with back-to-back strikeouts of Pete Alonso and Wilson Ramos and so it went that the Mets were unable to give Jacob deGrom a win again.

At least they won the game this time. However, they had to do so in spite of Mickey Callaway’s managing. The lefty Adam Kolarek started the eighth inning for the Dodgers and was tasked with facing Cano, who he retired via the strikeout. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts then turned to Joe Kelly to get through the rest of the inning. Kelly hit Todd Frazier with a pitch to start his night. Then, inexplicably, instead of pinch hitting the lefty Conforto for Juan Lagares, Callaway allowed Lagares to face the righty. Predictably, Lagares struck out, albeit after a lengthier at-bat than most would have anticipated. Roberts then made another pitching change, removing Kelly from the game in favor of Julio Urias. He promptly hit Brandon Nimmo—who had been double-switched in for J.D. Davis—with a pitch for the second hit by pitch of the inning.

With the go-ahead run in scoring position, Callaway then pinch ran Sam Haggerty for Frazier, which he should have done in the first place. With Amed Rosario at the plate, Callaway sent Rajai Davis to the on deck circle instead of Conforto, which led one to wonder whether Conforto was dealing with an injury. As a result, Urias pitched around Rosario to get to Davis. This also chased Seth Lugo from the game, who Callaway had double-switched in to begin with, likely hoping he could get multiple innings out of him after Lugo effortlessly struck out the side in the top of the eighth. It was a perplexing decision, but it paid off because, well, sometimes that’s baseball. Davis laced a bases-clearing double into the left field corner to snap the scoreless tie and put the Mets ahead 3-0.

Unable to now push Lugo to two innings, Callaway turned to the only other reliever in his circle of trust in Justin Wilson to pitch the top of the ninth. Michael Conforto was also finally put in the game, but to play the field, so it appeared that he could have pinch hit after all. Wilson retired the Dodgers in order, earning his third save of the season.

This evening on national television, the Mets look to take the rubber game of the series, which features yet another fun pitching matchup: Zack Wheeler against Walker Buehler.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Jacob deGrom, +41.2% WPA, Rajai Davis, +34.7% WPA
Big losers: None
Total pitcher WPA: +53.5% WPA
Total batter WPA: -3.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Rajai Davis’ bases-clearing double in the eighth, +34.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Juan Lagares strikes out swinging against Joe Kelly in the eighth, -5.4% WPA