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David Peterson, Dom Smith break out as Mets top Cubs at Citi Field

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The Mets got big games from two players who have recently been struggling.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If you were to try to pinpoint two Mets who badly needed a big game prior to the team’s Monday night game against the Chicago Cubs, the easiest choices would have been David Peterson and Dominic Smith. Both came into the game riding bad streaks, with Smith hitless in his last 20 at-bats and Peterson coming off two terrible starts to begin the month. So it was encouraging to see that it was those two very players who broke out to propel the Mets to a 5-2 victory in their series opener.

Peterson lasted only one-third of an inning and 2.2 innings in his last two starts, so expectations were tempered heading into his start against Chicago. The results were far better than anyone—perhaps, even, Peterson himself—could have reasonably expected. From the get-go, it was clear this wouldn’t be a repeat from his prior June outings, pitching a 1-2-3 first inning, which represented his first perfect frame since his May 19 start.

Peterson issued a walk to Patrick Wisdom to start the second inning, but he immediately recovered to get the formerly solid Jake Marisnick to ground into a double play. On that play, the ball got stuck in Jonathan Villar’s glove, but he managed to get it to Luis Guillorme, who released the ball quickly to complete the turn. He then got Jayson Heyward to ground out to end the inning. In the third, he gave up a one-out single to Eric Sogard—the lone hit he allowed on the evening—but picked him off of second with two outs to finish off the inning, and he pitched a perfect fourth and fifth after that.

In the early stages of this game, Jake Arrieta matched Peterson zero-for-zero. The Mets got a leadoff walk from Villar in the first, but Francisco Lindor grounded out in what looked to be a double play, but the umpires called Lindor safe at first and the Cubs declined to challenge. Smith, who entered in an 0-for-20 slump, walked, but Pete Alonso grounded into a double play to extinguish the threat. The Mets went quietly in the second and again in the third as they searched for answers against the former Cy Young winner.

Those answers came in the fourth, when Arrieta lost his command and the Mets’ hitters capitalized. After Lindor grounded out to start the inning, Smith broke out of his slump with with a single, his first base knock since June 8 at Camden Yards. For the game, Luis Rojas moved Smith up to the third spot in the lineup in the hopes that he would see better pitches and take better at-bats ahead of Alonso, and that strategy worked as he collected two hits. Two batters later, Billy McKinney walked to put two runners on base, and James McCann came through with a single up the middle to score Smith. On the play, Marisnick threw home, which allowed McCann to reach second. Kevin Pillar was the next man up for the Mets, and he lined a ball in the left-center field gap to drive in McKinney and McCann with the second and third runs of the game.

One inning later, Smith again came through, this time launching a home run to dead center field to make it a four-run lead for the Mets. Arrieta escaped the inning, but that was the end of his night. The Mets had to feel good about their chances at this point in the game, as the club came into play tonight with a 25-5 record when scoring at least four runs, and a 28-7 record when scoring first in any given game.

Peterson made sure to hold the lead this time around. After two perfect frames in the fourth and fifth, he issued a leadoff walk to Sergio Alcantara to start the sixth inning. Facing his first bit of adversity since the third inning, he buckled down to retire Sogard, Ian Happ, and Willson Contreras, striking out his last batter to complete his impressive start. It was the first time in the young lefty’s career that he completed six shutout innings, and with the outing, he managed to lower his ERA from 6.23 to 5.60.

The Mets added another insurance run in the sixth against the Cubs’ impenetrable bullpen. The Mets did it against Tommy Nance, who had not allowed an earned run in his young major league career. The right-hander retired the first two batters he faced, but he walked Pillar and Guillorme back-to-back to bring up the pinch hitter Brandon Drury, who grounded a single through the infield to bring in New York’s fifth run of the evening.

With Peterson out of the game, Luis Rojas turned to Trevor May, fresh off his insightful and entertaining interview with Gary, Keith, and Ron, to pitch the seventh. The inning started off innocently enough, as he got Kris Bryant to ground out. Things went downhill from there, as Anthony Rizzo launched a home run into the Coca Cola Corner, and Patrick Wisdom continued his improbable start by hitting a homer into the left field stands. It was the second straight day the team surrendered back-to-back home runs, and it brought Chicago to within striking distance. May recovered to strike out Marisnick, and Aaron Loup came in to retire Heyward and finish off the seventh.

Loup turned in a terrific eighth as well, retiring the Cubs in order. He struck out two of the four batters he faced, needing 20 pitches to set aside Chicago. Of those 20 pitches, he threw 16 for strikes. That set the stage for Edwin Díaz, who entered looking for his 13th save in 14 chances this season, and he did not disappoint. Facing the top of Chicago’s batting order, he struck out Contreras, Bryant, and Rizzo, throwing 13 of his 18 pitches for strikes to get the Mets back in the New York groove.

The win represented the first time the Mets have defeated the Cubs at Citi Field since Terry Collins was at the helm. In fact, it was exactly four years to the day that the Mets accomplished the feat, as they topped the Cubs 9-4 at Citi Field on June 14, 2017. Jerry Blevins was the winning pitcher that night. The Mets were swept in a four-game series in 2018, and lost all three they played at Citi Field against the Cubs in 2019.

The victory also put an end to Chicago’s five-game winning streak. The Mets will look for a similar outcome on Tuesday night, as they try to make it two in a row and four out of five on this homestand. The Mets will turn to Taijuan Walker, who will be opposed by Alec Mills.

Box scores

MLB
ESPN

*illar of the Game

Kevin Pillar: Drove in the winning run with a two-run double in fourth inning.

Win Probability Added

Fangraphs.com

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: David Peterson, +27.2% WPA
Big Mets loser: Pete Alonso, -12.6% WPA
Mets pitchers: 31.1% WPA
Mets hitters: 18.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Kevin Pillar two-run double in the fourth, +16.6% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Patrick Wisdom home run in the seventh, -3.9% WPA

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