After dropping three of their previous four contests, including a gut-wrenching defeat in the rubber game in St. Louis Thursday, Jacob deGrom was exactly the man the Mets wanted on the mound Friday night. The team needed a stopper and the ace right-hander delivered in spades as New York topped the Padres 5-1 in the series opener.
For the second consecutive day, New York’s offense got off to a fast start, as Asdrubal Cabrera led off the game with a double into the left center field gap and later scored on a Todd Frazier single. The Mets’ early rally stalled with just the one run after Wilmer Flores bounced into an inning ending double play, but with the stuff number 48 in gray had last night, that one run felt like an insurmountable advantage.
deGrom was in complete control from the get-go, needing only 10 pitches to get through Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and Christian Villanueva in the Padres’ first, and in the second inning he threw only eight pitches, aided by Jose Lobaton gunning down Franchy Cordero after a lead-off single. Offensively, the Mets threatened in virtually every frame, but San Diego starter Clayton Richard did a nice job of keeping his club in the game, as New York was unable to extend their lead in the relatively uneventful middle innings.
The drama finally began to heighten in the seventh, as after Juan Lagares and Lobaton led off the inning with back-to-back hits to set the table, Richard retired deGrom on a sacrifice bunt and Amed Rosario on a ground ball with the infield in. With their starter on the brink of getting out of trouble, rather than allow Richard to turn the line-up over a fourth time San Diego opted to go to the bullpen, summoning right-hander Craig Stammen. Cabrera greeted the veteran rudely, delivering the big hit New York has been missing in recent days, crushing a long three-run homer on the first pitch he saw, extending the Mets’ lead to 4-0 and essentially signaling game over.
After a relatively easy seventh that watched deGrom walk off the hill just shy of 100 pitches, he was somewhat surprisingly allowed to bat for himself in the top of the eighth, striking out to end a productive offensive inning for New York, as Lobaton had extended the lead to 5-0 with an RBI double. In the eighth, the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year struck out pinch-hitter Matt Szczur to open the inning, but after Myers roped a base hit, Mickey Callaway removed deGrom from the game, turning it over to a bullpen that has been shaky of late. Jerry Blevins gave the road dugout a scare shortly after entering the contest, as the left hander allowed Hosmer to crush a ball to right field that the park was just big enough to allow Michael Conforto to make a leaping grab at the wall.
The final drama in this one came in the bottom of the ninth, as Callaway ushered *relief pitcher* Matt Harvey into the game for the final three outs, but it didn’t take long for Harvey to make his manager nervous. Cordero led off with a long homer to dead center field, and Harvey then lost Jose Pirela to a walk. After going full on Carlos Asuaje, Harvey was fortunate to get him to finally loft a routine fly ball to center field for the first out. Freddy Galvis then rolled into a 4-6-3 to end the game, earning the Mets a needed win.
New York will continue their weekend get together with the Padres tonight with Jason Vargas set to make his first start of 2018 opposite San Diego rookie southpaw Joey Lucchesi.
Photo credit: Jake Roth – USA Today Sports