Only the Mets can play a game in which they overcome a two-run deficit in the eighth inning by putting together their biggest, most clutch rally of the season and then leave you fuming mad at the end of the night. That’s what happened on Sunday Night baseball. The Mets trailed Philadelphia at the start of the eighth inning thanks to a three-run home run by Didi Gregorius in the sixth. Kevin Pillar started the rally with a home run. That’s right, Jeff Francoeur, rallies can START with a home run.
Anyway, the real fun started when Jonathan Villar reached on a single and made a fool of the Phillies by scoring from first on a Jose Peraza pinch-hit single to tie the game.
The Phillies have to be the new Mets after that play. The ball barely makes it a few feet into the outfield and Villar is rounding the bases like a kid playing tee ball who hasn’t learned to respect the game yet. Brilliant play, especially since the Mets have struggled so hard with runners in scoring position. How do you get past that? Score from first on a ball hit right to the first baseman.
The best was yet to come, though. Newly minted Mets villain Jose Alvarado entered the game to put out the fire, and he was only available because he was appealing the suspension he was handed for barking at Dominic Smith on Friday night. He probably should have just gotten the suspension over with because after allowing a single to Jeff McNeil, Alvarado walked both Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto on pitches nowhere near the strike zone to put New York in front 5-4.
Joe Girardi pulled the plug on Alvarado and brought in David Hale to face Pete Alonso, but Polar Boy drilled the new pitcher’s first offering into the right-center field gap to drive in three more runs.
That SHOULD have been the end of the game. The Mets had just turned a two-run deficit into a four-run lead, destroying Philadelphia’s morale in the process. And it REALLY should have been over after Trevor May set the Phillies down in order in the bottom of the eighth.
You know what they say, though. The game isn’t over until Edwin Diaz decides it is. I’ve done my best to believe in Diaz after his disastrous Mets debut season of 2019. He pitched pretty well in the shortened 2020 campaign and I was all set for Diaz to reestablish himself as one of baseball elite relievers this year. Anything to make the Jarred Kelenic trade slightly less of a disaster.
It seems that every time I start to really believe in Diaz, though, we get an event like last night that took some of the bloom off the rose that was the Mets’ glorious comeback victory. Sure, Diaz shouldn’t have even been in the game since New York was up by four and May had thrown just 10 pitches the inning before. That doesn’t make the two walks he gave up in the ninth any less aggravating.
I can understand Roman Quinn hitting an RBI triple when we’re just trying to throw strikes. Diaz still would have been fine if he just threw strikes to Gregorius and Matt Joyce. Odds are that one of them makes an out and the game is over. Instead, Diaz allowed the tying run to come to the plate and Rhys Hoskins came within inches of actually crossing the plate with that run.
Hoskins’s blast was initially ruled a game-tying home run, but it was overturned by a replay review that clearly showed the ball hitting the tippy top of the railing at the top of the fence. Hoskins had to settle for a double, and Jeurys Familia came in to strike out Bryce Harper and end what should have been a more celebratory ninth inning.
I’m still thrilled that the Mets won and returned to a .500 record and first place in the National League East, but the way the game ended leaves me with a lot of doubt about the closer’s role going forward. Did Diaz really hurt himself in the ninth inning, or did he just bruise his ego? Do the Mets have enough fresh pitchers to defeat St. Louis tonight in what is supposed to be a bullpen game? Can we trust Diaz even if he is fully healthy?
I guess it wouldn’t be a Mets season without a agita and doubt. I’ll be really impressed if boys can grind out a win in St. Louis after such an emotional evening.