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Unlikely heroes shine again in extra-inning victory over the Marlins

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This time, it was Khalil Lee and Johneshwy Fargas who came through with big RBI hits in the twelfth.

MLB: New York Mets at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

In a season full of steep odds and near-impossible feats, the battered-but-not-broken Mets eked out a 6-5 extra inning victory over the Marlins in the first game of this three-game series in Miami. Prior to the game, the Mets put two more players—Pete Alonso and Tommy Hunter—on the injured list to bring the total number of players on the IL up to sixteen. Of the players on the Mets’ Opening Day lineup, just two are not on the injured list (Francisco Lindor and James McCann) and only one (Lindor) started tonight. Cameron Maybin was hitting third. And the Mets won.

In fact, they wasted no time, scoring two runs in the top of the first against the Marlins’ opener John Curtiss. Jonathan Villar led off the game with a four-pitch walk and then stole second base to advance into scoring position. Francisco Lindor then laced a double into the right field corner to drive him in and put the Mets on the board. With one out, Dominic Smith then flew out to center field. Lindor tagged up and advanced to third base, but the throw to third skipped by Brian Anderson and into the Marlins dugout, allowing Lindor to score and extend the Mets’ lead to 2-0.

In the bottom of the frame, Marcus Stroman benefited from some great defensive plays by the Mets, as Tomás Nido threw out Jazz Chisolm Jr. trying to steal second, with an excellent tag from Lindor. It was the first time Chisolm had been caught stealing this season. José Peraza also made a fantastic diving play to rob Corey Dickerson of a hit. Peraza would later be hit by a pitch in the lower leg in the fourth inning and be forced to depart the game early. He was replaced by Wilfredo Tovar, the latest addition to the Mets’ rag-tag bunch.

Stroman struggled a bit in the early innings. He gave up a run in the second on two hits and a sacrifice fly and began the third inning by surrendering a hit to the Marlins pitcher Ross Detwiler; it was his first hit in eight years. But after escaping the jam in the third, Stroman settled into a groove. He struck out the side in the fifth and his strikeout of Miguel Rojas to lead off the sixth marked five punch-outs in a row, after which Stroman did a fantastic little hop on the mound. He was also assisted by the Mets’ defense once more in that frame, as Lindor made a fantastic play in the hole on a grounder by Dickenson.

Meanwhile, the Mets added a run in the fourth inning when Dominic Smith walked with one out and Tomás Nido followed with an RBI double to make the score 3-1 Mets. With the pitcher on deck, Johneshwy Fargas laced a single and third base coach Gary DiSarcina took the risk by sending Nido, but Nido was thrown out at the plate to end the rally. It was not the last questionable decision DiSarcina would make on the night. But nonetheless, the Mets ended an 11 13 scoreless innings streak by Zach Pop and extended their lead.

Two perfect innings from righty Anthony Bender brought us to the bottom of the seventh. All night long, Stroman had been using his changeup behind in the count and getting Marlins hitters to chase pitches out in the zone to get back ahead. But Anderson put together a great at-bat to lead off the bottom of the seventh and refused to chase, working out a walk—the first surrendered by Stroman. Luis Rojas then made his way to the mound and decided to pull Stroman at just 89 pitches in an effort to protect the Mets’ skinny lead, even knowing the heavy lifting that would be required from the bullpen in the days ahead.

That decision came back to bite Rojas almost immediately. With Garrett Cooper at the plate, the new pitcher Miguel Castro threw a wild pitch, advancing Anderson to second. Then he gave up a game-tying, two-run shot that added an earned run to Stroman’s ledger and closed the book on his still very solid outing. To Castro’s credit, he struck out the next three batters he faced in order and did not allow the inning to balloon, but the damage had been done.

The late innings then became a series of improbable escape jobs on the part of the Mets bullpen. Trevor May was tasked with the eighth inning and gave up a single to Miguel Rojas sandwiched between two strikeouts. He then walked two consecutive batters to load the bases. Each of those two plate appearances were lengthy and May did not get a couple of calls in his favor. But finally, after yet another lengthy at-bat, May struck out Cooper to end the threat and strode off the mound, yelling triumphantly. He threw a season-high 32 pitches in the inning.

Jeurys Familia was the next Mets reliever to reach into his bag of tricks. He gave up a walk and a base hit to lead off the ninth inning and put the winning run in scoring position with nobody out. But then he got the pinch hitter Jesús Aguilar to pop out to short for a huge first out. He got away with a pitch to Jazz Chisolm, who flew out rather than sending it over the fence. But then he struck out a tough hitter in Miguel Rojas to end the inning and send the game to extras.

After having gone down quietly against Anthony Bass and Yimi Garcia in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, the Mets had a chance to go ahead in the top of the tenth against Dylan Floro. Nido represented the Mets’ free extra-inning baserunner, but the Mets pinch ran Jake Hager for him, so Hager stood on second base to start the inning. Wilfredo Tovar (another player in the long list of unlikely contributors) then hit a chopper on the infield that he legged out for an infield hit, sending Hager to third with the go-ahead run with nobody out. Brandon Drury, called up and playing first base for the injured Alonso, then struck out. Johneshwy Fargas then hit one right on the nose, but Chisolm made a jumping grab at second base to rob him of a hit. Hope remained alive when James McCann, pinch hitting for Familia in the pitcher’s spot, walked to load the bases. But Jonathan Villar, who had come up big for the Mets in the past, grounded out to first to end the inning.

Edwin Díaz looked positively filthy in his inning of work in bottom of the tenth and was really the only Mets reliever to have a relatively easy inning. With one out, a passed ball by James McCann advanced the Marlins’ free baserunner to third. But Díaz promptly struck out the next two batters swinging to put the inning to bed.

Jonathan Villar began the top of the eleventh on second base for the Mets and advanced to third on a Francisco Lindor single. However, he committed a horrific base-running blunder by getting picked off third base carrying the go-ahead run, which took all of the air out of the Mets’ rally. Adam Cimber—the last reliever in the Marlins bullpen—then made quick work of Cameron Maybin and Dominic Smith on two popups to retire the side.

Drew Smith was tasked with stranding Anderson as the free Marlins runner in the top of the twelfth and he did so, which ultimately earned him the win. But it didn’t come without a little heartburn. Garrett Cooper led off the inning with a productive groundout that advanced Anderson to third. After Smith registered a key strikeout of the catcher Sandy León for the second out, the Mets walked Magneuris Sierra intentionally to get to the pitcher’s spot because the Marlins were forced to send up Cimber, having run out of pitchers. Cimber did make solid contact though, and for a fleeting, heart attack-inducing moment, it looked as if the ball might fall in for a walk-off hit. However, Maybin came striding over to make the running catch and preserve the tie.

Cimber was forced to go a second inning for the Marlins and the submariner did not look as sharp in the twelfth as he did in the eleventh. With Dominic Smith standing on second to start the inning carrying the go-ahead run, Jake Hager slapped a single up the middle for his first major league hit, advancing Smith to third. Wilfredo Tovar then struck out swinging and the Mets sent Khalil Lee to the plate as the pinch hitter with one out. Until that at-bat, Lee had been 0-for-8 with eight strikeouts in his big league career. But he came through, lacing a double to drive in Smith with the go-ahead run. Johneshwy Fargas then followed, sending a ball to right field that skidded past a diving Adam Duvall, allowing two more runs to score to make the score 6-3 Mets. Fargas sped around third base and DiSarcina once again acted aggressively and got punished for it, as Fargas was nabbed at home and the dream of an inside the park home run died. James McCann (in the game for Nido) then bounced out to second to end the inning. But the Mets had some insurance runs to work with heading into the bottom of the twelfth, thanks to back-to-back extra base hits from unlikely sources.

They would need it. Aaron Loup took the mound for the Mets in the bottom of the twelfth and with Sierra on second base, Chisolm singled to bring the tying run to the plate. Rojas then followed with a single of his own to cut the Mets’ lead to 6-4 and bring the winning run to the plate. But then the Mets got the break they needed when Dickerson grounded into a double play, which the Mets expertly turned. It was another smooth play by Lindor who stepped on second and whipped the ball to first and Dominic Smith (now playing first) made a fantastic pick to complete the twin killing. A run scored on the play to cut the Mets’ lead to a razor-thin 6-5 margin, but the Mets gladly traded the run for two key outs. Luis Rojas then pulled the lefty Loup in favor of Jacob Barnes to face the righty Adam Duvall. Barnes got Duvall to fly out to left field to close the door on the rollercoaster game, earning his first save of the season.

Somehow, the Mets will have to cobble together a bullpen game in the second game of this three-game series in Miami. Pablo López will take the hill for the Marlins, but with a decimated bullpen behind him.

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What’s WPA?

Big Mets winners: Drew Smith and Edwin Díaz, +47.4% WPA (each)
Big Mets loser: Jonathan Villar, -64.9% WPA
Mets pitchers: +134.7% WPA
Mets hitters: -84.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Khalil Lee’s go-ahead double in the twelfth, +21.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Garrett Cooper’s game-tying home run off Miguel Castro in the seventh, -29.3% WPA