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A Hill, a Bear, and a Squirrel led the Mets to a series victory against the Blue Jays

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The Mets nearly found a way to blow this game, but survived.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Going into this afternoon’s game with the Blue Jays, the Mets had some reasons for optimism. Their newest player, the recently traded for Rich Hill, was starting the game for them. Hill, though not quite the pitcher he was half a decade ago, is still a very solid starter. The Mets, currently, have very few starting options, and so the prospect of having a real starting pitcher going for them puts them ahead of where they’ll be tomorrow and Tuesday.

The Mets were also facing Ross Stripling, owner of an ERA near five who is averaging less than five innings and five strikeouts per start over his last seven. And while the Mets lost the second game of the series last night, the offense has started to heat up a bit. All signs were pointing to a good day for the Mets, and the game started in just that way.

Hill, over his first five innings, was everything you’d hope a 41 year old junk-balling lefty would be. Hill allowed a baserunner in each of the first five, thrice on leadoff doubles, plus a single and a walk, but none came around to score. 49 pitches over five innings with a strikeout and a walk is not too shabby.

J.D. Davis and Jonathan Villar combined for a run in the first inning, but the Mets otherwise didn’t give Hill too much support. That was, until, the bottom of the fifth, when Davis and Luis Guillorme each reached on singles, putting two on with two out and Hill due up. Instead of pinch hitting for him, manager Luis Rojas left him in the game where, after starting the at-bat 3-0, he swung at ball 4 to strike out.

If Hill were a younger or different pitcher, it would make total sense to ride him longer into the game, especially with a double header tomorrow. But Hill is, essentially, a two times through the lineup starter at this point in his career, and he had escaped the scourge of the big bats the top of the Jays’ lineup twice already. But Rojas left him in, and instantly regretted it.

After hitting George Springer with a pitch, Vladimir Guerrero Jr drilled a long single to the wall in center, only missing a run scoring double due to an excellent barehand play by Brandon Nimmo. After a walk to Marcus Semien, Hill was pulled for Seth Lugo, who had to navigate a bases loaded, no outs tightrope.

It didn’t go great.

Bo Bichette stroked a two-run single to plate Springer and Guerrero and give the Blue Jays the 2-1 lead. Two pitches later, Teoscar Hernández hit a ball sharply to Davis at third and, instead of turning a double play and limiting the potential damage, Davis threw home, which Semien beat to the plate, and so there were still no outs and three runs plated.

Lugo would get out of the inning without further damage, and the Mets used the bottom of the sixth to not just get even, but take the lead.

Unlike his Queens counterpart, Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo pulled his starter after five, and brought in former 2021 Met Jacob Barnes. Michael Conforto drew a one-out walk before Pete Alonso crushed his 22nd home run of the year and tying the game. After a Dom Smith groundout, Davis walked and Villar singled to put two on with two out in a tied game. Instead of letting Tomas Nido hit in this high leverage spot, technically a lower leverage spot than Hill batted in last inning, Rojas pulled him for a pinch hitting Jeff McNeil. The move worked out, as McNeil ripped a double, plating both runs and putting the Mets up 5-3.

Jeurys Familia would pitch a scoreless seventh, notching two strikeouts and not allowing a ball out of the infield. Trevor May started the eighth inning and instantly looked like he did not have it today. After a Seimen double and sharp singles by Bichette and Hernández, the score was 5-4 with no outs. A Randal Grichuk fly out advanced the runners to second and third. Lourdes Gurriel Jr was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a potential double play. Alejandro Kirk, who already had two hits on the day, popped up and the Infield Fly Rule was evoked for the second out.

Aaron Loup was called upon to get the final out of the inning against left-hand batting Cavan Biggio, and he got his man via a line out to Smith in left.

Edwin Diaz pitched the ninth and, aside from a walk to Vlad Jr, struck out the side for a dominant 21st save.

The Mets welcome the Braves for a five game series starting tomorrow with a doubleheader. Marcus Stroman will pitch one game. Who knows who will pitch the other.

Box scores

MLB.com

ESPN

*illar of the game

Jonathan Villar went 2 for 4 with the game’s first RBI, so he gets the nod today.

Win Probability Added

Mets vs Blue Jays 7/25/21 WPA Chart
Fangraphs.com

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Jeff McNeil, +29.0% WPA

Big Mets loser: Trevor May, -17.6% WPA

Mets pitchers: +4.7% WPA

Mets hitters: +45.3% WPA

Teh aw3s0mest play: Jeff McNeil’s two-run double, +29.0% WPA

Teh sux0rest play: Bo Bichette’s two-run single, -20.4% WPA

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