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Clutch seventh inning hits and shutout performance from bullpen lead Mets to victory

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Tylor Megill pitched well enough, the offense got all the runs they needed in one inning, and the bullpen locked it down.

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets began a three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves on Tuesday night. As has been the case recently, their offense struggled until the late innings of the game. This time, however, the team scored enough runs to pull away with a victory, as the Amazins beat the Braves 4-3 to open the series.

While Tylor Megill probably did not end up being the primary story of this game, he was certainly the story coming into it. Following a rough start on Monday, Jerad Eickhoff was designated for assignment prior to the game on Tuesday night. The team will still need a fifth starter until either Carlos Carrasco comes back from injury or a suitable starting pitcher is acquired on the trade market. Megill was never expected to be a factor on the major league team this year, but after showing some impressive stuff in his major league debut, he had the chance to continue making the case that the team should keep him around for the time being. While his start was ultimately not an unqualified success and it remains to be seen what the Mets will do with him, on the whole he gave the Mets what they needed: a start which didn’t put a burdensome amount of strain on the bullpen and kept the team in the game. And it just so happens that he showed flashes of real promise while doing so, such as in the first inning when he struck out the side and came within one pitch of throwing an immaculate inning.

He continued to look impressive for the next few innings, keeping the Braves off the board through four. Mind you, that was in spite of some questionable balls and strikes calls from the home plate umpire which resulted in walks to Guillermo Heredia in the second (which resulted in runners on first and second with one out) and Ronald Acuna Jr. in the third (which set up the heart of the Braves’ order to do some damage). Many rookie pitcher would have been rattled after not getting those calls and subsequently fallen apart. To Megill’s credit, he kept his cool and got to work, retiring the next two batters in each inning (with help from Dominic Smith on a diving catch to end the second, and with an impressive clutch strikeout of reigning MVP Freddie Freeman in the third) to keep the game tied.

Alas, the game remained tied because Charlie Morton—who was dominant against the Mets just a week ago—continued to make a schuffling offense... scuffle. He did not give up a hit until a Michael Conforto single in the fourth inning, and on the whole he continued to confuse the Mets with his breaking ball for most of the night. While Megill made a valiant effort to put up zeroes alongside him, he finally faltered in the fifth inning, much like he did in his first start against the Braves. After securing the first two outs of the inning to the bottom of the order, it seemed like the rookie might have actually been able to continue pitching past the fifth inning. But the top of the Braves order quickly changed the flow of the ballgame, as Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman both singled to set up a three-run homer to center field to put Atlanta up 3-0. Megill retired Austin Riley to make it through five innings for the first time as a big leaguer, but his night was over after that. While it was a disappointing end to the start given that it looked liked the final line would be so much better, his overall performance was still nothing to sneeze at. He recorded eight strikeouts on the night, maintained his composure despite some unfortunate calls, made it through five innings before the bullpen stepped in, and kept the deficit manageable. If the Mets can get their fifth starter—whomever that might be—to do that for the remainder of the season, they would probably sign up for that right now.

Nevertheless, the team was now facing a three-run deficit against a pitcher that they have been unable to figure out in recent times. Morton gave up a leadoff single to Jeff McNeil in the top of the sixth, but retired the next three batters—two via strikeout—without much trouble. Drew Smith came on to replace Megill and allowed two walks—one to leadoff the inning and one intentional later on—but managed to keep the Braves off the board. Morton came back on for the seventh, and the Mets offense suddenly came alive. Dominic Smith got things started by lining a single to center field, and Kevin Pillar followed with a walk (though just as Braves hitters benefitted against Megill, Pillar arguably benefitted from a generous ball call from the home plate umpire on what should have been strike three). James McCann—who, it should be noted, took some very rough hacks against Morton all night, including on a ball that was a few feet away from the plate earlier in the game—came up to the plate, and he soon made it a whole new ballgame by smacking a three-run homer to center field. With that, the Mets had tied the game, and Morton exited the game in favor of A.J. Minter.

Thankfully, the Mets took the spark that McCann had ignited and expanded upon it immediately. After Guillorme struck out against Minter for the first out of the inning, Jose Peraza pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot and lined a ball that hoped over the left field wall for a ground-rule double. Following a McNeil strikeout, Francisco Lindor came up and got the second biggest clutch hit of the inning, lining a 1-0 pitch into center field to score Peraza from second. After a whole night of offensive ineptitude, the Mets had somehow scored four runs in a single inning and gotten themselves the lead.

Unfortunately, Lindor’s hit was the last one the Mets would get in the game. They did threaten in the ninth inning thanks to walks to McCann and Peraza, but pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.—who has been dreadful and should probably be concerned about losing his job once Brandon Nimmo returns—grounded into a double play to ensure that the Mets would hold tight at four runs. Luckily for the Mets, they didn’t need any additional offensive help. With a one-run lead, Luis Rojas brought out the big guns of the bullpen—Trevor May, Seth Lugo, and Edwin Diaz—for the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings of the ballgame, and outside of a two-out hit from Heredia in the eighth inning, the three-headed dragon of the bullpen shut the Braves down. With that, the first-place Mets gained a game in the standings against their division rivals and got the series off on a strong note. They will try to take game two in the series tomorrow night in a battle of southpaws with David Peterson facing off against Max Fried.

*illar of the game

While Jonathan gets ready to begin his rehab assignment, Kevin didn’t do too much tonight, but he did get an important walk right before McCann’s clutch homer. Let’s be generous and give the nod to Kevin for that small but significant contribution.

Box scores

ESPN
MLB

Win Probability Added

Fangraphs.com

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: James McCann, +27.3% WPA
Big Mets loser: Pete Alonso, -11.4% WPA
Mets pitchers: +38.4% WPA
Mets hitters: +11.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: James McCann three-run homer in the ninth, +28.4% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Ozzie Albies three-run homer in the fifth inning, -30.4% WPA

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