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The Mets live to play another day

Jacob deGrom and a key McNeil hit keep the Mets alive.

Wild Card Series - San Diego Padres v New York Mets - Game Two Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Mets came into tonight’s game with everything on the line. Their season would be over if they lost, and they had been smacked around the night before by the Padres, so the vibes were not great. Jacob deGrom was facing off against Blake Snell, a pitcher the Mets had seen earlier in the year and had been able to smack around themselves. But deGrom has historically been the recipient of less than ample run support from the Mets, and that would not fly for a do-or-die playoff game. But there were nine innings (at least) standing between the Mets and the end of their season, and that’s more than enough time to right the ship.

In the first inning, deGrom looked as sharp as he’s ever been. With just twelve pitches, he set down the side in order, with two strikeouts to boot (including one strike that caused Juan Soto to swing out of his socks). In the bottom half, the Mets challenged Snell immediately. Brandon Nimmo led off with a single, but was erased by a Starling Marte double play. But following that, Francisco Lindor sent a ball into orbit for a solo home run, putting the Mets ahead by one. Pete Alonso and Mark Canha followed with walks, but Jeff McNeil ended the inning with a flyout. But they got Snell’s pitch count up early, making him throw nearly 30 pitches in the first inning alone.

deGrom’s second inning was hitless as well. No strikeouts, but he induced a flyout and two groundouts to send down all three batters he faced. In the bottom half, Snell started out easy, getting two strikeouts from Eduardo Escobar and Darin Ruf, throwing just seven pitches between the two. But Tomás Nido worked a 1-2 count into a walk, and Nimmo singled, and the Mets were threatening again. But Marte flew out to end the inning and strand the two runners, leaving their lead at still just a single run.

deGrom didn’t look as sharp in the third. After a Ha-Seong Kim strikeout, deGrom gave up a solo home run to Trent Grisham to tie the game. Austin Nola struck out, but Jurickson Profar drew a two-out walk and Soto singled to right which ended up with Profar at third and Soto at second after a bad throw by Marte nearly allowed Profar to score. But deGrom struck out Machado to keep the Padres at just one run. In the bottom half, Lindor led off with a walk, but then the next three Mets went down in order, with two strikeouts and a groundout, so Lindor was left stranded at first.

deGrom’s fourth was more struggling. He gave up a leadoff single to Josh Bell, then followed that with three straight force outs, so there was always a threat looming at first. He eventually escaped the prolonged jam, but he was clearly not having a very good time. In the bottom half of the inning, Escobar and Ruf (!) walked, to put two on with no outs. Nido started out trying to bunt but once he got to two strikes he just swung away and struck out for the first out. But Nimmo came up and hit a single to left field, driving in Escobar to put the Mets ahead. After a pitching change with Snell leaving and Nick Martinez coming in, Marte and Lindor flew out to end the inning. But the Mets went into the fifth inning with the lead once more.

In the fifth, deGrom looked like he was struggling. Grisham led off with a walk, and then Nola bunted him over to second. Profar then laced a single down the first base line that drove in Grisham to tie the game. Soto then singled to put runners on the corners with just one out, but deGrom recovered to strike out Machado and Bell to keep the game tied. Martinez stayed in for the bottom half of the inning, and Alonso took him deep on the very first pitch he saw to put the Mets back out in front. The next three batters were outs, but the Mets went into the sixth with the lead yet again.

Despite being at 90 pitches, and not looking his best the inning prior, deGrom came back out for the sixth. But he held the Padres in check, striking out Jake Cronenworth, getting Brandon Drury to fly out, and getting Kim to ground out. Martinez was still in for the bottom of the inning, and Ruf became the leadoff base runner after getting hit by a pitch. Terrance Gore came in to run for him, but it was for naught when Nido swung first pitch and hit into a double play. Nimmo walked, but the inning ended when Marte grounded out to Machado in what looked like a wrong call. The Mets challenged, but Marte was ruled to have not touched the base in time (it seemed…incorrect), and onto the seventh they went.

In the seventh, the trumpets were sounded, and Edwin Díaz entered the game. He got Grisham to ground out, but Nola reached on a single. A Profar ground out (also challenged, by the Padres, but Díaz did in fact touch the base) moved him to second, but he was stranded there by a Soto ground out. Adrián Morejón came in for the Padres in the bottom of the seventh. Lindor led off with a single, then Alonso and Canha walked to load the bases with no outs. McNeil hit a ball through the infield for a double, driving in two runs and driving Morejón from the game with the Mets ahead by three. Pierce Johnson came in for the Padres to try and stop the bleeding. Escobar singled and drove in another run. Daniel Vogelbach hit a sacrifice fly and drove in McNeil to put the Mets ahead by five runs. Nido singled, but Nimmo and Marte got out to end the inning.

Díaz came back out for the top of the eighth. Machado grounded out for the first out. Bell walked, but Cronenworth struck out for the second out. At nearly 30 pitches, Diaz was pulled with two outs for Adam Ottavino. Ottavino struck out Drury and put the Mets 3 outs away from a decisive game three. In the bottom of the inning, Steven Wilson came in for the Padres. He set the Mets down in order with two strikeouts, but no bother. The Mets were up five runs with three outs to go.

Ottavino was back in for the ninth. He struck out Kim for the first out, but hit Grisham and walked Nola to put two runners on. Profar flew out, advancing Grisham to third. Ottavino then walked Soto to load the bases with two outs for Machado. He then walked Machado to drive in a run, keep the bases loaded, and bring up Josh Bell with a chance to tie the game with one swing. Ottavino left the game at this point, with Seth Lugo (who pitched the day before and had warmed up earlier in the game) being brought in to try and get the final out. He was able to induce a groundout from Bell to end the game and force a game three tomorrow.

The Mets, with their backs against the wall, played a game much like they did in the earlier months of the season. They had good at-bats, and were able to capitalize, especially in the later innings. And they were buoyed by a gutsy deGrom performance, pushing through despite not having his best stuff. And for that they are rewarded another chance to move on to the NLDS, where they would face the Dodgers. But first, they have to beat the Padres once more, and with Joe Musgrove on the bump tomorrow, it could very well be curtains for the Mets. But the Mets have their own strong starter, Chris Bassitt, pitching for them. So it’s anybody’s game.

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What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Brandon Nimmo, +19.1% WPA
Big Mets loser: Starling Marte, -16.7% WPA
Mets pitchers: +15.8% WPA
Mets hitters: +34.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Pete Alonso home run in the fifth, +16.1% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Jurickson Profar RBI single in the fifth, -13.1% WPA