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Mets get homer happy in Cincy

This time the offense provided Jacob deGrom the support he needed to notch his tenth win of the season.

MLB: New York Mets at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets beat the Reds in lopsided fashion by a score of 8-1 in the first of their three-game set at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. The Mets had their ace on the mound and he showed that he is every bit deserving of the National League Cy Young Award for the second year in a row.

The first half of the game unfolded like many Jacob deGrom starts before it. deGrom was matched up against the Reds’ ace Luis Castillo, who was mowing down Mets hitters early. The Mets managed just one hit off Castillo—a one-out single by Wilson Ramos in the second inning—through the first five frames. Over that same timespan, deGrom allowed three hits. Even though they were all singles, all three hitters reached second base via the stolen base, a problem that continues to plague the Mets pitching staff.

However, deGrom was his usual brilliant self and kept the Reds off the board. The Mets finally broke through against Castillo in the sixth inning when Jeff McNeil belted his 23rd home run of the season to put the Mets on top 1-0. The Mets extended their lead in the seventh when Castillo issued a two-out walk to J.D. Davis and Amed Rosario followed with a two-run shot to make the score 3-0 and give deGrom a little breathing room. In all, Castillo gave up only the three hits in his seven innings of work, but was bitten by the fact that two of the three were home runs. He struck out seven batters and walked three.

Castillo delivered a quality start for the Reds, but deGrom simply out-dueled him. When all was said and done, deGrom shut out the Reds for seven innings. He gave up four hits and struck out nine without walking a batter. At 96 pitches with the game still close, Mickey Callaway shook deGrom’s hand in the dugout after he completed the seventh, signaling that his night was over. Turning things over to the Mets’ shaky bullpen was risky, but the Mets built a bigger lead that allowed Callaway to feel secure in doing so—and without having to use Seth Lugo or Justin Wilson, no less.

Castillo’s night was also done after seven strong innings and the Mets’ bats were grateful for that, as they were able to beat up on the Reds’ bullpen. With one out in the eighth, McNeil laced a single for his second hit of the night, which brought Pete Alonso to the plate sitting on 49 home runs for the season. He turned on a 2-2 low-inside fastball from Sal Romano and sent it sailing “into the Ohio night,” to use the words of the immortal Gary Cohen. The rookie’s 50th home run extended the Mets’ lead to 5-0. Alonso is now the only rookie besides Aaron Judge to reach that mark in baseball history. He needs just two more homers to tie Judge’s rookie record for most home runs in a single season.

With even more breathing room, the Mets’ bullpen got to work. Brad Brach came in for the eighth inning and quickly retired his first two batters, but then gave up a bloop single to Josh VanMeter. Although not at the peak of his powers, Joey Votto, who stood on deck, is still very much a left-handed threat. Callaway changed pitchers, bringing in the lefty Luis Avilan to face him. However, Avilan walked Votto to put two men on for Eugenio Suarez. Suarez has just two fewer home runs than Alonso and it was Edwin Diaz, who has given up 14 home runs in 54 innings this season, that was tasked with facing him. But the Mets needed a righty and they needed a strikeout and Diaz delivered, striking out Suarez to keep the shutout in tact, as Mets fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The Mets piled on further in the ninth against Keury Mella, staging a two-out rally that resulted in three more runs. Brandon Nimmo got things going with a single up the middle. Then, McNeil doubled into the right field corner to score Nimmo and advanced to third base on the throw to home plate. The Reds clearly did not want Alonso to hit his 51st home run against them as well because he was intentionally walked to get to the pinch hitter Juan Lagares. However, Lagares made them pay for that choice, lacing a single to score McNeil and extend the Mets’ lead to 7-0. Mella then (unintentionally) walked Wilson Ramos to load the bases for Michael Conforto, who smacked a single of his own to make the score 8-0 Mets. The inning finally ended when Jed Lowrie flew out to shallow left field as a pinch hitter. He has yet to collect a hit as a Met.

Jeurys Familia came in to pitch the ninth inning and gave up a solo home run to the first batter he faced—the dynamic, home run hitting rookie Aristides Aquino—to break up the shutout. Tucker Barnhart followed with a bloop single. But just when Mets fans thought they might be in for a long and challenging inning, Familia retired the pinch hitter Christian Colon on a fly out to center and got Phillip Ervin to ground into a double play to end the game.

Not only does the 50 home run milestone make Pete Alonso feel like even more of a sure thing for Rookie of the Year in the National League, Jacob deGrom emerged as perhaps the standalone frontrunner in the NL Cy Young Award race, earning his tenth win of the season. With the Mets and Brewers winning and the Cubs losing, the Mets are now 3.5 games back of Milwaukee for the second Wild Card with nine games to play. The Cubs are 2 games back.

With the chances of playing in October continuing to hang in the balance, Zack Wheeler takes on Anthony DeSclafani this afternoon in the second game of this three-game set in Cincinnati.

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Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big winners: Jacob deGrom, +42.3% WPA, Amed Rosario, +15.1% WPA, Jeff McNeil, +14.2% WPA,
Big losers: None
Total pitcher WPA: +43.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: +6.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Amed Rosario’s two-run homer in the seventh, +21.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: J.D. Davis lines out to third with a man on in the fifth, -4.4% WPA