When the Mets had their dreadful month of June, the general attitude amongst the fans was “It’s so over.” When the team then won six straight games in the week before the All Star break, the attitude was “We are so back.” When the team lost the last two games before the break and then the first two games coming out of it, the attitude was once more “It’s so over.” Well, now the Mets have won the past three games after tonight’s 5-1 victory over the White Sox, and while I want to avoid rushing to overly emotional conclusions: folks, we are so back.
Justin Verlander took the mound for the Mets tonight. The last outing for the future Hall of Famer was a struggling one, as he issued a whopping six walks in five innings of work and took the loss in the first game out of the break. While that outing may have left a bad taste in a lot of fans’ mouths, Verlander did his best to quickly eliminate that tonight, as he quickly looked on top of his game. He pitched a perfect first three innings against the Sox, generating several swings and misses and looking generally dominant. Meanwhile, the Mets faced off against former top prospect Touki Toussaint, and they first managed to do some damage against him in the third inning, when Brett Baty—who hit a home run in last night’s win—socked a leadoff solo homer to center field. It marked the first time that the rookie first baseman ever hit home runs in back-to-back games in his major league career, and it gave the Mets a 1-0 lead.
Verlander surrendered his first hit in the fourth—a leadoff single to Andrew Benintendi—but otherwise continued to hold the White Sox off the board. Meanwhile, the offense did more work in the bottom of the frame, as they got the first two runners on thanks to a walk to Pete Alonso and a hit-by-pitch to Jeff McNeil. The first run of the inning subsequently came in on an opposite field ground ball single off the bat of Francisco Alvarez, but the bats were far from done. After yet another walk to load the bases, Baty got his second RBI of the game on a run-scoring groundout to make it 3-0. Luis Guillorme then hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score the third run of the inning, and Brandon Nimmo followed with a line drive double to left field to score Baty and make it 5-0 Mets. Much like last night, the offense was off to a quick start to the evening.
Meanwhile, Verlander required just nine pitches in the fifth inning and five pitches in the sixth inning, giving him 59 pitches through six scoreless innings. It was easy to start dreaming of a complete game shutout at this point, but those dreams ended in the top of the seventh inning. With one out in the frame, Luis Robert Jr.—easily the best hitter in this Chicago lineup—hit a solo homer to left-center field to finally get the White Sox on the board and end Verlander’s shutout dreams. His dreams of pitching a complete game also effectively came to an end in this inning, as following the homer he surrendered a walk and a single and ultimately threw thirty pitches in the seventh. While he was able to hold the White Sox to just the one run, the increased pitch count meant that the following inning—a perfect eighth—would ultimately be his last. Still, his overall line—eight innings, three hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, one run—made this easily one of his best starts as a member of the Mets.
The bats didn’t provide much offense after the fourth against Toussaint and Jesse Schloltens—who pitched the final two innings of the game for Chicago—but, thanks to Verlander’s dominance, it didn’t matter. Adam Ottavino came on for the ninth inning, and he pitched a perfect inning to close things out. After a duo of difficult wins, the Mets finally had themselves an easy one to bring their record to 45-50. The wild card deficit is still substantial, but nevertheless: folks, we are SO back. The team will try to go for a sweep against Chicago tomorrow afternoon.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Justin Verlander, +25.9% WPA
Big Mets loser: Francisco Lindor, -4.8% WPA
Mets pitchers: +27.1% WPA
Mets hitters: +22.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Brett Baty solo homer in the third, +12.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Andrew Benintendo leadoff single in the fourth, -4.9% WPA