Coming into Monday’s series opener against the Nationals, the Mets had scored just seven runs in the past four games. In other words, things have not been going very well for the team’s bats, as has been the case for a large portion of this season. But in the series opener against the Nationals, the offense broke out with some big hits and some hard-fought comebacks to lead to an 8-7 victory.
Carlos Carrasco started the game for the Mets on Monday. After largely pitching well in short outings in his first two starts of the season, the hope no doubt was for Cookie to pitch deeper into the game and stretch his pitch count out. Alas, fate had other plans. His night immediately got off to a poor start, as he allowed Victor Robles and Alcides Escobar to lead off the game with back-to-back hits (the latter of the bunting variety). Letting two runners on in front of Juan Soto is never a good idea, as Carrasco soon learned, as the young Nats slugger blasted a three-run homer to the opposite field to quickly put the Mets in a hole.
Thankfully, we got a glimpse of the offensive production we would see for the rest of the game in the bottom of the frame, as following two quick outs to get Paulo Espino’s night started, Pete Alonso ripped a deep fly ball off the center field wall for a double, and Dominic Smith then hit the very next pitch over Soto’s head in right field for yet another double. That brought Alonso home to make it a 3-1 ballgame, and the stage was set for a good ol’ fashioned slugest.
Alas, that slugest would have to wait until the next day. Carrasco came on for the second and once again gave up a leadoff single, and at that point the weather became burdensome enough for the tarp to be placed on the field. Eventually, the decision was made to suspend the game until the next day, at which point Rich Hill came on the mound to replace Carrasco. Espino would also leave the game as a result of the rain-induced shenanigans, but he stayed in to bunt Riley Adams over to second. Victor Robles then came up and hit a long fly ball to left that carried a surprising amount. Smith ran back on the ball and jumped to try to catch it, but the ball jumped out of his glove, and Adams scored to add another run to Carrasco’s final line. Hill would get out of the inning without allowing any more runs, but the Mets were now down 4-1.
Joe Ross came on to replace Espino, and his first inning of the day was scoreless despite allowing two baserunners (on a Jonathan Villar single and an error). Hill similarly allowed two baserunners on in the next inning (on a walk and a Jeff McNeil error) and similarly got out of it, and the Mets then started their comeback in the bottom of the frame. Brandon Nimmo started things off with an opposite field double, and McNeil then redeemed himself for his fielding miscue by hitting a single to right field to score Nimmo and make it 4-2. Alonso followed with a single to put runners on first and second, and both of those runners subsequently advanced on a long fly ball to center off the bat of Smith for the first out. Michael Conforto then hit a soft ground ball to first base which resulted in the second out of the inning, but which did score another run to make it 4-3 and put Alonso at third base. With the tying run ninety feet away, J.D. Davis came up and completed the rally with a double to left field, tying the game at four apiece. Villar grounded out to end the inning, but already the Mets had had more offensive fortune than they’d had for quite some time.
The fourth inning was quiet for both sides, save for a Juan Soto single for the Nats. Alas, Hill quickly got into trouble in the fifth inning, as he walked Yadiel Hernandez (the third bases on balls surrendered by Hill in three innings), and Carter Kieboom followed with an opposite field jam shot that beat the shift and put runners on first and third. Luis Garcia then came up and worked a 3-0 count, and on the following pitch he swung away and lined a ball to right-center field for a two-run double to make the score 6-4. At that point, Luis Rojas pulled the plug on Hill and brought Jeurys Familia in. Unfortunately, Familia followed Hill’s example and allowed the inherited runner to score by quickly giving up an RBI single to Adams to once again give the Nats a three-run lead. Thankfully, Familia recovered after this and recorded the next three outs (thanks in part to an impressive leaping catch by McNeil to end the inning), which served as a precursor to some of the impressive bullpen work that was to follow for the Mets.
The offense, meanwhile, once again had some work to do. McNeil got the bottom of the inning against Ross started with a walk, but Alonso and Smith both flew out after that. Conforto then came up to the plate, and on a 3-2 pitch he lined a single to right field. McNeil was running on the pitch and quickly reached third base, and as soon as Soto tossed the ball into second base he sprinted for home and beat the ensuing throw, resulting the very rare runner scoring all the way from first on a single. Conforto tried to make it to second base on the play and was tagged out, but the score was now 7-5.
Miguel Castro came on for the sixth inning; he gave up a leadoff single to Soto (which would end up being the last hit the Nats would get on the day), but then induced a double play against Bell and then got the third out for a quick inning. The Mets also did little in the bottom of the inning in Ross’s final frame, despite the leadoff runner reaching on the error. But thankfully the bullpen continued to keep the game where it was, as Drew Smith came on for the seventh and pitched a 1-2-3 inning (don’t look now, but he and Castro have both quietly been pitching very strongly in recent times).
Gabe Klobosits, who is a real person and not a name I just made up, replaced Ross in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nimmo led off the inning with a single up the middle, and following a McNeil fly ball out, Alonso (who, in case we forgot, came into this game in a mighty slump) came up and socked his third hit of the day, another booming double off the center field wall. Nimmo scored from first, and the Mets had once again cut the deficit, this time to just a single run. Alas, that remaining run would not be scored just yet, as Smith and Conforto were both retired to end the inning. Trevor May then came on for the top of the eighth, and like Smith before him threw a quick and easy 1-2-3 inning to bring the Mets up to bat with a chance to finalize their comeback.
And that is exactly what the Mets did. Once again, they greeted a new pitcher (in this case, Mason Thompson, who is also a real person) with a leadoff hit, this time on an opposite field double off the bat of J.D. Davis. Villar came up and tried to lay a sacrifice bunt down. As we all know, asking your capable hitters to sacrifice bunt is always a wise and prudent decision, and that was proven here when Thompson fielded the bunt and threw it past the first baseman, causing Davis to score the tying run and Villar to move to second as the go-ahead run. James McCann then had the equivalent of a bunt with a broken bat soft grounder to third which Villar was able to advance on, and pinch-hitter extraordinaire Brandon Drury was then sent to the plate to try to give the Mets the lead. He accomplished that goal by lining a single to center to score Villar, making it 8-7 Mets.
The Amazins were unable to score anything else in that inning, but given how the bullpen had been performing, they wouldn’t need any more run support. Edwin Diaz came on for the ninth, and it was quickly clear that we were getting good Diaz. Soto led off the inning with the chance to tie the game with another home run, but instead he struck out swinging for the first out. Diaz then got Bell to fly out to defensive replacement Albert Almora in left field, and induced a ground out to first off the bat of Hernandez to end the game. And with that, thanks to five stellar bullpen innings and a surprisingly strong showing from the offense, the Mets finally recorded a win. They will now once again have to adjust their plans due to rain and prepare for a doubleheader tomorrow.
*illar of the game
Kevin Pillar did not appear in this game. Jonathan Villar got a hit and was responsible for the bunt which resulted in the tying run scoring in the eighth. Let’s give it to Jonathan.