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A dozen ghosts, two homers from the kids, and a Polar Bear walk-off

Kodai Senga was brilliant, fanning a dozen Rays batters and the Mets came from behind on three different occasions to notch the most exciting win of the 2023 season thus far.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Mets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Mets pulled out a thrilling extra-inning walk-off victory over the Rays by a score 8-7 tonight at Citi Field. Kodai Senga was brilliant tonight against a heavy-hitting Rays lineup, limiting them to just one run and three hits over six innings of work, striking out a career-high dozen batters. And on three different occasions, the Mets hit a home run to come from behind—the final in walk-off fashion.

The Rays’ sole run off Senga came in the fourth on back-to-back one-out doubles by Brandon Lowe and the red-hot Isaac Paredes, which snapped the scoreless tie. Otherwise, Senga was virtually untouchable, striking out every other batter he faced that inning along with nine more. Senga’s twelve strikeouts were the most ever by a Japanese-born Mets pitcher.

Meanwhile, the Mets had very limited opportunities against Rays pitching early, but did not cash in. They had first and third and one out against Josh Fleming in the first inning thanks to an Eduardo Escobar walk and a Francisco Lindor bloop single, but Pete Alonso promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play to end the threat. Fleming limited the Mets to just three hits in his five innings of work, walking two batters and striking out two.

The Rays added a run on a Jose Siri solo homer off Jeff Brigham in the seventh and it looked every bit like Senga was going to get tagged with the deGrom-style loss for his masterpiece. But in the bottom of the inning, Rays side-arming righty Ryan Thompson hit Mark Canha with a pitch and then Mark Vientos delivered in his 2023 debut, launching a game-tying two-run homer to give the Mets life.

Adam Ottavino came in the game in the top of the eighth and gave up a go-ahead two-run homer to Brandon Lowe and the Rays were immediately ahead again. Tampa added a run against Stephen Nogosek in the ninth thanks to a double by Josh Lowe and a sharp grounder by Randy Arozarena that Francisco Lindor was unable to handle.

Jason Adam came out of the gate not looking sharp in the bottom of the ninth, yielding a leadoff walk to Daniel Vogelbach and then hitting Starling Marte with a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate. He almost escaped the inning unscathed, retiring the next two batters. But then Francisco Álvarez strode to the plate and launched a no-doubter into the seats, flipping his bat high into the air to celebrate the Mets’ second game-tying home run of the evening by the youth contingent.

The Rays scored a pair of runs against the usually-immaculate David Robertson in the top of the tenth thanks to a pair of singles from the pinch hitter Harold Ramírez and Josh Lowe. But in a play that now looms large, the Mets were able to nab Lowe between first and second base to end the inning, albeit after the Rays’ seventh run crossed the plate.

The Mets faced off against Rays closer Pete Fairbanks in the bottom of the tenth, once again at a deficit. With Brandon Nimmo as the free runner on second, Jeff McNeil laced a single to advance him to third base and bring the winning run to the plate. Francisco Lindor struck out for the first out, but then Pete Alonso launched a ball deep into the Flushing night sky for a walk-off, three-run homer.

Tonight’s victory—by far the best of the 2023 season and the Mets’ first walk-off—was the type of moment that can ignite a struggling team and turn a season around. Tonight, we saw just a small glimpse of what the 2023 Mets could be made of. Let’s see where they go from here.

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Box scores

Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Pete Alonso, +62.6% WPA
Big Mets loser: David Robertson, -42.4% WPA
Mets pitchers: -76.6% WPA
Mets hitters: +126.6% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Pete Alonso’s walk-off three-run homer in the top of the tenth, +80.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Tyler Walls—the Rays’ free runner in the top of the tenth—advances to third on a stolen base, -29.4% WPA