In typical weird West Coast road trip fashion, the Mets kicked off their series in Arizona with a wild 6-5 extra-inning victory that was way more tense than it needed to be. What started as a pitcher’s duel became a barrage of late-inning home runs that turned a game that had all the trappings of an easy victory into a nail-biter.
Both David Peterson and Zac Gallen were on their respective games tonight, with Gallen racking up the strikeouts and Peterson amassing ground ball outs with extreme efficiency. Peterson was aided in the first inning by a fantastic defensive play by Pete Alonso on a soft bouncer by Matt Davidson up the first base line; Alonso had been playing way in the hole and ranged far to his right to make a diving stop and threw to Peterson from his knees for the out at first.
Neither pitcher allowed a baserunner until the bottom of the third when Pavin Smith doubled to lead off the inning. Then after Peterson bounced back to claim Daulton Varsho as his first strikeout victim of the night, the rookie catcher Jose Herrera hit a chopper to McNeil on which Peterson did not get over to first base in time to cover. This allowed Herrera to reach base safely and Smith to advance to third with one out. Peterson was able to induce soft contact by Cooper Hummel, but it was too soft; Lindor’s only play was to first base and Smith scored, staking the Diamondbacks to a 1-0 lead.
The Mets were finally able to find some answers against Gallen in the fourth. Brandon Nimmo led off the inning by slapping a hit into left field against the shift, which he hustled into a double. A good throw may have nabbed Nimmo at second, but the throw was off line and the Mets found themselves with a runner in scoring position and nobody out. Starling Marte then walked, but he was erased at second base on a Francisco Lindor grounder. Importantly, Lindor was able to beat the throw at first to avoid the double play. Pete Alonso then dunked a single into shallow right field to score Nimmo and tie the game. The Mets were unable to build a big inning out of the rally, but crucially they made Gallen—still on a limited pitch count—work hard in the inning such that he was only able to work one more inning after that.
Peterson meanwhile was keeping his pitch count low thanks to all of the soft contact he was inducing. Peterson and the Mets were also assisted in the fifth by a mental lapse on the part of Pavin Smith, who after reaching base on a walk with one out, took off running on a fly ball out from Varsho and was doubled off first base—clearly forgetting that there was only one out instead of two.
With Gallen out after 79 pitches in the sixth inning, former Met Oliver Perez was brought in to face Brandon Nimmo to lead things off. Nimmo slapped yet another opposite field hit to reach base as the go-ahead run. Starling Marte followed with a single of his own and Nimmo continued his evening of aggressive base running, advancing to third on the play. This was another situation where he may have been out at third base on a good throw, but Matt Davidson dropped the ball on the tag, allowing Nimmo to reach third safely. In a heads-up play, Marte advanced to second on the throw, putting runners on second and third and nobody out. Francisco Lindor then hit a fly ball deep enough to not only score Nimmo and give the Mets a 2-1 lead, but also to allow Marte to tag up and advance to third base. Perez was then removed from the game in favor of J.B. Wendelken to face the righty Pete Alonso. Alonso hit a slow roller up the first base line that was slow enough to allow Marte to score and put the Mets up 3-1.
In the bottom of the frame now staked with a lead to protect, Peterson got two quick ground ball outs and it looked as if he would be able to get through six innings. But then Ketel Marte hit a pop fly to shallow center on which Nimmo tried to make a diving catch, but was unable to come up with the ball, allowing Marte to reach second base. That was an unlucky end to David Peterson’s night, which was otherwise stellar. Drew Smith came in the game and walked Matt Davidson on four pitches to put the tying run on base. But then he bounced back to strike out Christian Walker to end the threat and strand his inherited runner.
In the top of the seventh inning, Jeff McNeil hit a two-out single and then James McCann blasted an absolute mammoth of a home run to left center—the longest home run of his career—to put the Mets up 5-1. With the way this team is rolling right now and the way the Diamondbacks offense had been struggling, that lead felt secure. But it was not secure, dear reader. It was not in the least bit secure.
Chasen Shreve entered the game in the bottom of the seventh and gave up a leadoff single to Seth Beer. Eduardo Escobar almost made a fantastic diving play to rob Beer of a hit, but the ball clanked off his glove. Shreve was then able to strike out Nick Ahmed (who is playing in his first game of the season due to injury delaying his start to the season) for the first out, but then gave up a single to Pavin Smith, which advanced Beer to third. Daulton Varsho plated Beer with a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2. Trevor May was then brought in the game to face the pinch hitter David Peralta, who he retired on a fly ball to right on which Jeff McNeil went a long way to catch in shallow right field to compensate for how deep Marte was playing.
Edwin Uceta made quick work of the Mets in the eighth, but he was assisted by Christian Walker making nearly the exact same play that Alonso made in the first to rob Starling Marte of a hit. Trevor May was then asked to sit down and then get up again to start a second inning of work for the second time this season and it did not go well for May this time around either. To lead off the inning, Cooper Hummel hit a ringing double off the wall that was very nearly a home run. May bounced back to strike out the next two hitters, but then Christian Walker turned on an inside pitch and somehow managed to keep it fair just inside the left field foul pole to get the Diamondbacks within a run. To be fair to May, it was a good pitch and Walker’s homer had an expected batting average of .160, but a dinger is a dinger and the Mets’ lead had suddenly shrunk to one run.
Robinson Canó singled of Noe Ramirez in the top of the ninth with one out to snap an 0-for-10 drought at the plate, but the Mets were unable to capitalize. Between the Mets not being in too many close games in the late innings and missing some time on the bereavement list, Edwin Díaz entered the night with just one save in one opportunity; all of the other times he’s pitched this year have been in non-save situations. Díaz took the hill in the bottom of the ninth for his second save chance and got two quick outs. But sometimes all it takes is one mistake. Díaz hung a slider to Daulton Varsho and Varsho did not miss it, parking it over the right field wall for a game-tying homer. Díaz bounced back to strike out the pinch hitter Jake McCarthy, but this game was heading to extras.
With Jeff McNeil having made the last out in the top of the ninth, he stood on second base as the free runner to begin the tenth as the Mets faced off against Diamondbacks closer Mark Melancon. James McCann made solid contact again to lead off the inning, grounding out sharply to second to advance McNeil to third base. Nimmo followed with another grounder—this one to short—which Nick Ahmed bobbled before successfully throwing Nimmo out at first. McNeil could have potentially broken for home on the bobble, but he was frozen at third and there are no guarantees that he would have been safe. Starling Marte then strode to the plate and hit a bouncer that hugged the third base line. Third baseman Matt Davidson opted to wait on the long hop, which meant he had to make a perfect quick throw all the way across the diamond on target. He did so, but Marte’s speed made the play very close. Marte was initially called out on the field, but replay review revealed that his foot just touched the first base bag before the ball was in the back of Walker’s glove at first. This meant that McNeil crossed home plate with the go-ahead run on Marte’s infield hit, making it 6-5 Mets.
Seth Lugo, who has had some struggles in this early season, was tasked with protecting this precarious lead in the bottom of the tenth with Jake McCarthy as the free runner at second base for the Diamondbacks. Lugo had his sharp curve working in this outing and it showed; he struck out the first two batters he faced. Lugo then walked Davidson, but was able to get the almost hero Christian Walker to fly out to to shallow right center. In a play eerily reminiscent of his play earlier in the game, McNeil went far into the outfield to make the grab—except this time he fell to the ground as he caught the ball, collapsing in what was likely a combination of exhaustion and relief. And honestly, it was a reflection of what those of us who were still awake and watching past one in the morning Eastern Time were feeling in that moment. A win is a win, but this one did not come easy for the Mets, who improve to an MLB-best 11-4 on the season.
The Mets and Diamondbacks head into the second game of this weekend series in Arizona with depleted bullpens, as Trevor Williams is set to make a spot start facing off against Humberto Castellanos.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Starling Marte, +47.2% WPA
Big Mets loser: Edwin Díaz, -30.9% WPA
Mets pitchers: +26.1% WPA
Mets hitters: +23.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Starling Marte’s go-ahead infield single in the tenth, +29.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Daulton Varsho’s game-tying home run off Edwin Díaz in the bottom of the ninth, -48.9% WPA