The Mets have had an impressive lead in the NL East standings for virtually the entire season. While it’s easy to get encouraged about their long-term prospects as a result of that, the circumstances that the Mets find themselves in—being without two of their best starting pitchers and preparing for an absolutely brutal June schedule—means that they can hardly afford to rest on their laurels. Coming into this weekend against the Phillies, the team had an important opportunity to firmly bury their division rivals deeper in the standings and give themselves an even deeper cushion.
Two games in, and the Mets have accomplished this goal. Tonight, some clutch hits from the usual suspects led to another offensive outburst, and the pitching was good enough to hold the Phillies scoreless in all but one inning, resulting in a decisive 8-2 victory to secure a series win at the minimum.
The Mets turned to Taijuan Walker in game two of the series to match up against Zach Eflin for the Phillies. After both pitchers put up zeroes in the first, it was the Mets who got the scoring started in the bottom of the second. With one out in the inning, Eduardo Escobar got things started with a single to center, and then on a 3-2 pitch, Mark Canha placed a ball perfectly to the vacated right side of the infield to put runners on first and third. Dominic Smith then drove a pitch deep into left-center field to score Escobar from third and give the Mets an early lead.
Walker held onto the lead in the third, but then got into some trouble in the fourth inning. Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos greeted him with back-to-back singles, and after getting Jean Segura to fly out to right field for the first out of the inning, Walker walked Rhys Hoskins to load the bases. J.T. Realmuto quickly made him pay with an opposite field single just outside the reach of Luis Guillorme at second, and two runs came in to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Walker would go on to issue yet another walk but otherwise limited the damage to just those two runs, giving his team a chance to come back from the minor deficit.
And come back they quickly did, thanks to the trio of hitters who have been consistently coming through for the Mets in recent times. Francisco Lindor led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk, and Pete Alonso followed with a single to center to put runners on first and second. Jeff McNeil then came up and hammered a 2-2 pitch into the second deck in right field, giving him his third home run of the season and his second of the week and putting the Mets up 4-2.
Walker got into some more trouble in the fifth, as he once again gave up back-to-back singles to Harper and Castellanos to put runners on first and second with one out. This time, however, he got a perfectly placed ground ball off the bat of Segura, with Lindor fielding the ball right at the second base bag and throwing to first for the double play to end the inning. Still, given the struggles that Walker endured up to that point, it was not surprising that this wound up being the end of his night. His final line was fairly pedestrian: fivee innings pitched on 88 pitches, six hits, two runs, three walks, and just one strikeout. While Walker’s ERA on the season remains impressive at 2.83, his strikeout rate remains noticeably down, which is at least some cause for concern moving forward.
Before the Mets bullpen came on, the Mets offense had more runs to score. With one out in the inning, Guillorme dropped a perfectly placed bunt down the third base line for an infield single (while it might get lost in the shuffle amidst the flashier hits from the flashier hitters, it should not be lost that Guillorme had yet another solid offensive game, going 3-3 with a walk to continue his torrid streak at the plate). Starling Marte followed that up with a double down the left field line to put runners on second and third with one out and bring up Lindor with the chance to do some damage. The Mets shortstop has been hitting the cover off the ball in recent times, and he continued his recent success here with a shot deep into left field that both Schwarber and Herrera tried to make a play on towards the wall. The ball ended up bouncing between the two of them, and Lindor made it all the way to third on a two-run triple to make it 6-2 Mets. Not to be outdone, Alonso—who is also, as luck would have it, on an incredible hot streak right now—followed up with a scorcher to left field that was caught, but which was deep enough to score Lindor from third to make it 7-2.
Colin Holderman came on in place of Walker in the sixth. The rookie reliever came into the game having not allowed a run in the first six innings of his big league career, and he maintained that scoreless record. He pitched a perfect sixth inning, striking out Hoskins and Herrera in the process. Buck Showalter, who has already demonstrated a remarkable amount of confidence in the young pitcher, put Holderman back out there for a second inning of work in the seventh, and while he allowed a leadoff single to Johan Camargo, he otherwise made it through the inning unscathed and recorded another strikeout. That is now eight innings of scoreless work for Holderman at the major league level, with ten strikeouts versus just five hits and one walks during that span. He continues to look more and more like a good who could be a difference-maker in the bullpen over the remainder of the season.
James Norwood relieved Eflin in the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Mets decided to welcome him by tacking on an extra insurance run. After getting the first out, Norwood gave up a single to Guillorme and walked Marte to once again bring up Lindor with a runner in scoring position. This time, Lindor had to settle for a measly single to right, scoring Guillorme and giving the Mets their second straight game with eight runs scored. They threatened to score more after McNeil walked to load the bases and force Norwood out of the game, but Connor Brogdon came in and ended the inning on an Escobar groundout.
Still, the Mets already had more than enough runs to secure their victory, and the bullpen continued to do their job in the final two innings. Adam Ottavino came on in the eighth and did give up some baserunners—one on an ugly throwing error from Ottavino, and the other on a replay-review hit-by-pitch—but did not allow the Phillies to score. Then following a quiet bottom of the eighth by the Mets offense, Seth Lugo came on for the ninth and threw a pretty 1-2-3 inning, striking out Bohm swinging to end the game.
With the Braves losing earlier in the day, the Mets now have an 8.5 game lead in the NL East standings, and they are now 9.5 games in front of the Phillies. It certainly would have been difficult to envision that the Mets could find themselves sitting with this big a lead before Memorial Day, but as stated in the beginning, it’s their job to take this impressive lead and continue adding to it. They will have the chance to do that tomorrow by going for the series sweep, which would be one extra step to take the wind out of the Phillies’ sails. Chris Bassitt will attempt to accomplish that feat for the Mets, though he will have to battle against Zack Wheeler to do it.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Jeff McNeil, +24.4% WPA
Big Mets loser: Patrick Mazeika, -3.2% WPA
Mets pitchers: 49.5% WPA
Mets hitters: 0.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jeff McNeil three-run homer in the fourth, +26.8% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: J.T. Realmuto two-run single in the fourth, -17.8% WPA