Game recap September 18: King of the jungle

Gabriel Ynoa handled himself admirably in his first MLB start as he struck out eight Twins while allowing a single walk over 4.2 innings. The series sweep of Minnesota was confirmed by the bats of T.J. Rivera and Michael Conforto, as Jerry Blevins earned the multi-inning save. Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares made guest appearances in their respective returns from the DL, but weren’t necessary in the team’s 3-2 win.


Twins starter Kyle Gibson had a hard establishing his high 80s sinker in the strike zone early in this start. He allowed a lead-off walk to Alejandro De Aza, a single to Rivera and hit Yoenis Cespedes with a pitch to load the bases with no outs in the first. Michael Conforto singled to bring home two runners and Kelly Johnson also drew a walk. Gibson’s troubles could’ve continued but for a line-out unassisted double play handled by Brian Dozier. In his return from the DL, Duda grounded out softly to end the productive first inning.
After a clean second inning, Rivera demolished a hanging slider into the right field bleachers, followed immediately by a Cespedes double. Gibson calmed down over the next couple innings, preventing further damage until allowing three straight singles to begin the sixth. Buddy Bosheers relieved him at this point and got out of the inning, due in large part to an exceptional pick by James Beresford.
Taylor Rogers finished the game for the Twins, striking out two over two perfect innings. Dozier’s defense became a storyline throughout the game as he came up with several difficult balls, saving Twins’ pitchers from further damage. It was not the best offensive day for the Mets, but enough damage was done, and Terry Collins got to rest some of his big weapons. After leaving in the seventh with nausea and dizziness, Cespedes’ status is unclear.


Right-handed starter Ynoa made his MLB rotation debut in place of Rafael Montero, who has been moved to the bullpen, and performed better than anyone expected. Aside from some turmoil in the second inning (a walk and two singles resulted in a JR Murphy sacrifice fly RBI), Ynoa looked confident and dominant against the Minnesota lineup. He worked effectively off of his mid 90s sinker and was able to locate his slider to both sides of the plate.
Ynoa worked quickly in the first inning, retiring all three batters faced. In the second, he worked through a bases-loaded, one-out jam and earned two strikeouts. He struck out three batters in the third inning and, after only 76 pitches, was pulled with two outs in the fifth. It seemed a bit disappointing to see a player performing so well pulled so early during his first MLB start, but with the tying run at the plate, the times through the order penalty in effect and in such a consequential moment in the Wild Card race, it was a completely reasonable move.
The bullpen’s immediate struggles threatened to make that reasonable decision a post-game press conference nightmare for Terry Collins, but they managed to hold on.


Josh Edgin relieved Ynoa, but allowed the only batter he faced to reach base via single and he was pulled for Erik Goeddel. Goeddel then struggled to establish his rising fastball above the zone, resulting in two wild pitches and a walk, but still managed to strike out three Twins over his clean 1.1 innings.
Josh Smoker entered in the seventh, along with Brandon Nimmo in place of a nauseous Cespedes. Smoker looked good, striking out Kurt Suzuki and Logan Schafer without allowing a hit. Fernando Salas’ eighth inning appearance was far shakier, as he left too much of his fastball over the plate and got clobbered with three straight line drives. Kennys Vargas’ was a bomb that cut the lead to one and, after two outs, Salas was pulled for Jerry Blevins.
Blevins closed out the game with a scoreless 1.1 innings, including a two-out strikeout of Brian Dozier in the ninth, for his second save of the season. Given Terry Collins’ interest in resting his top relievers yesterday, there’s not a much better performance the team could have hoped for in a tight game with playoff implications.


On Monday, the Braves head to Flushing to begin another three-game series against the Mets. Noah Syndergaard continues his Cy Young-deserving campaign against Aaron Blair, who’s had a rough rookie season with Atlanta. At nine games behind the Nationals, the Mets are effectively eliminated from the division race, but currently hold a one-game lead over the Giants in the NL Wild Card race. Cespedes’ status after his early exit from yesterday’s game is something to watch. Game time is 7:10 p.m.

Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso – USA Today Sports

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