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Rat or Raccoon? Lindor, Mazeika are the heroes in wild walk-off victory

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After David Peterson’s early exit, the bullpen kept the Mets in the game and they came from behind to win it in the tenth inning. And there was a rodent-related brouhaha.

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Mets pulled off an absolute stunner of a walk-off win in the tenth inning to beat the Diamondbacks 5-4 in the first game of a weekend series at Citi Field.

After everything that happened in this game (and boy did a lot happen in this game), it’s easy to forget that this game began with David Peterson unable to get out of the second inning. After a rather uneventful first inning for both teams, the Diamondbacks got a rally started in the second with a one-out single against the shift by Pavin Smith. Peterson was able to strike out Nick Ahmed for the second out, but then Josh Rojas laced a base hit on which Conforto nearly made a sliding catch, but he merely trapped the ball and two men were on for the Diamondbacks. Even though Peterson was unable to calm himself down and stop the bleeding in the subsequent at-bats, it was the walk to the opposing pitcher Zac Gallen to load the bases that came back to (snake)bite Peterson.

Peterson clearly felt he had been squeezed a bit during the inning and the usually unflappable lefty let his frustration show. He hit the next batter Tim Locastro with a pitch to force in a run and put the Diamondbacks on the board. He then walked the next two batters, Carson Kelly and Christian Walker, to force in two additional runs and make the score 3-0 Diamondbacks. At that point, it was clear that Peterson had completely lost the plot and Luis Rojas had seen enough. To avoid falling into an insurmountable deficit early in the game, Peterson was subject to the early hook and Robert Gsellman was called upon once again to bail the Mets out and keep the game reasonably close.

He did so with aplomb, as did the rest of the Mets bullpen. Gsellman induced a popup off the bat of Eduardo Escobar on which James McCann made a nice play in foul territory behind home plate to record the crucial final out of the second inning.

Still, it was a long road ahead and an uphill battle for the Mets. With Joey Lucchesi likely starting (or pitching multiple innings following an opener) tomorrow and Sean Reid-Foley having been optioned to the minors, the Mets had to find a way to cobble together seven more innings of work (it ended up to be eight more innings of work, but more on that later).

Gsellman went back to the mound for the third inning and gave up a run to lengthen the Diamondbacks’ lead to 4-0. Nick Ahmed started the rally with a leadoff single. Pavin Smith lined out for the first out, but then former Met Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Rojas notched back-to-back singles to load the bases. In his second good at-bat of the day, Zac Gallen then hit one sharply up the middle, but Francisco Lindor made an excellent play on the ball. The Mets nearly turned two to get out of the inning unscathed, as Lindor dove and flipped the ball to Jeff McNeil for the out at second and McNeil spun around and whipped it to first base, but the throw was not in time to get Gallen and a run came home. Gsellman was able to limit the damage though; he retired the next batter on a groundout.

The Mets scratched out a run in the third thanks to an infield hit by Lindor, on which Christian Walker was unable to handle the throw from Cabrera, allowing Lindor to advance to second. Michael Conforto then laced a single up the middle to put the Mets on the board.

Gsellman was able to work his way out of trouble in the fourth, as Carson Kelly reached on an error by Jonathan Villar to lead off the inning. It was a dribbler that Villar tried to snag quickly to try to get the out and failed to do so and probably should have been scored an infield hit. Either way, Kelly found himself safe at first with nobody out. Gsellman then issued a walk to Christian Walker to advance Kelly into scoring position. But then he retired the next three batters in order on a fly out and two slow dribblers to the mound in order to end the threat and escape the inning.

Meanwhile, Zac Gallen cruised through the middle innings and it was looking like yet another night where the Mets’ poor offense would render any strong performance from the bullpen moot. Although it felt like a much greater deficit, the Mets were still within striking distance, but had no choice but to reach to the bottom of the totem pole of their pitching depth to piece together the game. The freshly-recalled Tommy Hunter made his Mets debut in the fifth inning and despite giving up some hard contact, delivered two scoreless innings of work.

The Mets inched closer in the sixth on a rally that started with a leadoff walk by Pete Alonso. Dominic Smith then hit a sharp grounder to Walker at first that was nearly a double play, but after stepping on the first base bag to retire Smith, Walker threw wildly to second, missing the opportunity to nab Alonso as well. That miscue ended up costing the Diamondbacks. Kevin Pillar popped out for the second out, but then his -illar teammate Jonathan Villar came through with an RBI single, cutting the Diamondbacks’ lead to 4-2.

With Jacob Barnes now on the mound for the seventh, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil—playing in the shift with McNeil at the second base bag—miscommunicated on a ground ball by Ahmed that resulted in an infield hit. Barnes got out of the inning (barely; the pinch hitter Daulton Varsho sent a ball to the warning track for the last out of the inning), so the play did not end up costing the Mets, but it was not the first miscommunication on the part of the middle infield battery this season. Between the top and the bottom of the seventh, there was some sort of scuffle in the tunnel that leads from the Mets dugout to the clubhouse that had all of the players rushing from the dugout to see what was going on. The speculation is that the kerfuffle was some sort of skirmish between Lindor and McNeil, presumably over the miscommunication in the top of the inning. When asked about it after the game, Lindor said that he saw a rat in the tunnel and he and McNeil were debating about whether it was a rat or a raccoon. This was clearly a bit the entire team was in on (McNeil corroborated the story) to avoid discussing the true nature of the goings on, but there was no harm done and the two appeared to be past whatever disagreement they had—rodent-related or otherwise—by the end of the game.

And what better to paper over any sort of disagreement than a gargantuan game-tying home run? In the bottom of the seventh, Tomás Nido, who had been double switched into the game, led off with a walk. McNeil then hit one hard, but it happened to be right at the pitcher Caleb Smith (in the game in relief of Gallen); it banked off Smith’s leg and he was able to recover in time to retire McNeil at first. But then—whether he was fueled by fielding miscues, Donnie Stevenson, rats, or raccoons—Francisco Lindor sent a pitch sailing into the Citi Field night for a game-tying, two-run homer. Alex Rodriguez might even say it was a “signature moment” for Lindor. Regardless of what label one chooses to use, it is hopefully a sign of him finally breaking out.

The Mets bullpen held the Diamondbacks at bay through the late innings. Miguel Castro worked around a walk and a stolen base to pitch a scoreless eighth. Edwin Díaz worked a scoreless ninth, assisted by an absolute cannon of a throw from Michael Conforto on a ball hit to the right field corner by Asdrubal Cabrera that nabbed Cabrera at second base.

The Mets had a chance to walk it off in regulation when McNeil led off the bottom of the ninth with a bloop single off Diamondbacks closer Joakim Soria. Francisco Lindor strode to the plate with the winning run on first base and inexplicably attempted a bunt, on which the Diamondbacks were able to throw McNeil out at second. Soria then retired Conforto and Alonso on back-to-back fly outs to end the inning and send the game to extras.

Aaron Loup took the hill for the Mets in the top of the tenth with a runner on second base and was immaculate, retiring the Diamondbacks in order. Stefan Crichton was tasked with the bottom of the tenth for the Diamondbacks and the inning began with Alonso standing on second base. The Diamondbacks opted to walk Dominic Smith intentionally to get to Kevin Pillar. Pillar made a productive out, sending a fly ball deep enough to right field to allow Alonso to tag up and advance to third base. With the pitcher’s spot one batter away, the Diamondbacks issued an intentional pass once more, this time to Jonathan Villar. This forced the Mets to use the last bat off of their bench, the newly recalled third string catcher Patrick Mazeika, with the bases loaded and the winning run 90 feet away. In just his second major league at-bat and his first at-bat at Citi Field, Mazeika worked Crichton to a 2-2 count, fouling a couple of pitches back on solid cuts; it was clear he was trying to elevate the ball enough to hit a game-winning sacrifice fly. In the end, he did pretty much the exact opposite of elevating the ball, but it was still a game-winner. He dribbled a 2-2 pitch just a few feet in front of home plate and it was hit slowly enough that Alonso was able to charge home with the winning run. An Alonso-style walk-off celebration ensued in which Mazeika lost his shirt and that is how this absolutely amazing and inexplicable game came to a close.

The Mets have yet to announce a starter for the second game of this three-game set, but it will likely be Joey Lucchesi or an opener followed by Lucchesi to face off against Merrill Kelly, as the Mets try to cobble together innings from their bullpen for the second straight day.

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Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Aaron Loup, +47.4% WPA
Big Mets loser: David Peterson, -26.8% WPA
Mets pitchers: +51.8% WPA
Mets hitters: -1.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Francisco Lindor’s game-tying two-run homer in the seventh, +32.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: David Peterson hits Tim Locastro with a pitch to force in the first run of the game in the top of the second, -11.0% WPA