The Mets defeated the playoff-bound Braves by a score of 4-2 in the opening game of the final series of the regular season at Citi Field. Marcus Stroman made his final start of 2019, facing off against Dallas Keuchel, who—like all the Braves’ pitchers—was on a pitch count as the Braves prepare for the postseason.
The Braves hit Stroman hard in the first inning and the game seemed destined to be a grim one for the Mets with Stroman exiting early. Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies led off the game with back-to-back well-struck singles. Freddie Freeman then hit the ball hard, but Joe Panik made a nice grab and the Mets were almost able to turn two, but Freeman was able to beat the throw to first to put runners at the corners with one out. Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis then laced a pair of singles to plate two runs and stake the Braves and Keuchel to an early 2-0 lead. Stroman retired the next two batters on a popup and a strikeout to avoid the big inning and didn’t look back.
With one out in the bottom of the first, Pete Alonso strode to the plate with 51 home runs under his belt, just one shy of Aaron Judge’s single season rookie record. He got an 0-1 cutter from Keuchel that he liked and he did not miss it, hitting a laser shot off the wall above the orange line in left field for home run number 52. As he rounded the bases and watch the ball clear the orange line, he hoisted both arms in the air, jubilant as he always is. The crowd called for a curtain call and he obliged, emerging from the dugout with both arms in the air once again, holding his batting helmet aloft. The Braves’ lead was cut to 2-1.
Alonso scored the tying run as well in the bottom of the third. He led off the inning with a walk. J.D. Davis then hit the ball right on the nose, but it was tracked down in right-center field. However, the Mets were clearly hitting the ball hard off Keuchel early, just as the Braves had done to Stroman in the first inning. Todd Frazier kept the rally going with a base hit up the middle. Amed Rosario then knocked in Alonso with another single to tie the game, putting a nice capper on a resurgent season for the young shortstop. Joe Panik then also hit a well-struck liner to the outfield, but was robbed of a base hit by a diving Nick Markakais. A wild pitch and a walk to Juan Lagares then loaded the bases for Tomas Nido. However, Nido was unable to help the Mets put up a crooked number, grounding out to shortstop to end the inning.
However, Stroman only gave up two hits the whole rest of the way after the first inning, holding the Braves to two runs and allowing the Mets more time to come from behind. He pushed himself to 112 pitches over six innings of work, striking out eight batters and walking only one. It was a positive note on which to end his season, after a bout of illness cut his penultimate start short.
And the Mets were able to get Stroman his tenth win to boot. In the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Nimmo smacked a one-out single up the middle to get things started. Alonso popped out to second for the second out, but his bear companion J.D. Davis was able to get the job done. The Sun Bear launched a two-run homer over the right-centerfield wall to put the Mets ahead 4-2.
And there the score would remain. Stroman escaped the sixth inning thanks to a combination of making the big pitch when he needed to and assistance from his defense. To lead off the inning, Markakis hit a sharp bouncer that was knocked down expertly by Frazier at third base. In his haste, Frazier threw errantly to third base, but Alonso left to grab the throw and slap the tag on Markakis to complete a sparkling play. Stroman struck out his next batter, but then hit a batter who advanced to second on a wild pitch. However, he ended his night with a strikeout of the pinch hitter Rafael Ortega to hold the lead.
Former Met Anthony Swarzak, who is on the bubble to make the Braves’ postseason roster, retired the Mets in order in the bottom of the sixth. Jeurys Familia worked a scoreless seventh for the Mets, working around a one-out infield hit by Swanson. The effort earned him his thirteenth hold of the year. The Mets nearly added a run off Shane Greene in the bottom of the seventh via a leadoff double by Todd Frazier and two sacrifice flies, but Frazier was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Seth Lugo then made what the Mets are saying is his last appearance of the season, tossing two scoreless innings to complete the victory and earn his sixth save of the season. He did, however, need over 40 pitches to do so, working around two hits in the eighth and a leadoff hit-by-pitch in the ninth. But Lugo, as always, was undeterred and was able to work out of both jams unscathed.
Steven Matz takes the mound for the Mets in the second game of this final three-game series at Citi Field. He will look to bounce back from the disastrous outing he had in his penultimate start and end his season on a high note. He faces off against Mike Foltynewicz.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: J.D. Davis, +24.3% WPA, Seth Lugo, +12.5% WPA, Todd Frazier, +12.0% WPA, Pete Alonso, +10.2% WPA
Big losers: Tomas Nido, -13.6% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +26.4% WPA
Total batter WPA: +23.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: J.D. Davis’ go-ahead, two-run homer, +25.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Tomas Nido grounds out with the bases loaded in the third, -8.1% WPA