On one of the most whirlwind days in recent Mets’ memory, the Amazins rallied late to reward everyone involved with the team with a feel good walk-off win.
Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field began with an impromptu press conference to shockingly announce GM Sandy Alderson was taking a leave of absence immediately due to health complications. The former marine’s cancer has unfortunately returned, and the team announced that his three lieutenants, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi, will collectively run the club’s baseball operations department indefinitely. While ownership had prior knowledge of what Alderson was going through, manager Mickey Callaway, the coaches and the players were all in the dark, and it had to be a lot to take in shortly before playing a baseball game.
Once the game began, left-hander Steven Matz continued to quietly throw like a top of the rotation starter, holding Pittsburgh hitless through the first four innings. New York plated two runs in the bottom of the first thanks to a two-run single from Wilmer Flores, and as the game approached the middle innings it was looking like that may be enough for Matz.
These are the 2018 Mets though, and nothing can be that easy.
After facing the minimum through four, Matz allowed hits to the first four Pirates in the fifth, including RBIs from Jose Osuna and Gregory Polanco to even the game at two apiece. That score held into the seventh, when Polanco and Michael Conforto traded two-out solo homers to send the ballgame into the eighth at 3-3.
Struggling righty Anthony Swarzak was first out of the New York bullpen, and he did little to snap out of his recent slump, allowing a hit and a walk and leaving a mess for Jeurys Familia to clean up. The first batter Familia faced, David Freese, slapped a routine double play ground ball to shortstop, and it was here the game took yet another interesting turn. Jose Reyes fed Asdrubal Cabrera at second base for one out, but Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison went in hard, preventing Cabrera from getting anything on the throw to first and keeping the inning alive. Familia took exception to the hard-nosed play, jawing at Harrison as he exited the field, causing the benches to briefly clear. Cabrera for his part acknowledged it was a clean play, strangely hugging Harrison in the middle of the chaos to try to calm him down. Familia did seem to lose focus on the next hitter, walking Elias Diaz to load the bases, but then got Osuna to ground out to end the frame with the game still tied.
Both clubs went down reasonably quiet for the next couple frames, sending this contest to the bottom of the 10th with New York given the chance to walk the game off. And they immediately had themselves in position to do so. Conforto led the inning off with a walk, and advanced to second on a single from Todd Frazier. After a weak bunt attempt by Cabrera ended with a pop-up to the pitcher, up stepped the Mets’ walkoff extraordinaire, Wilmer Flores.
The favorite son ripped an 0-1 offering from Pittsburgh lefty Steven Brault down the left field line to win the game, already his third walkoff winner of 2018. Flores now has 9 career walkoff RBIs, tying David Wright for the most in franchise history.
Tonight the Mets and Bucs will play the rubber game of the series, with Zack Wheeler and Ivan Nova toeing the rubber for their respective squads.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports