David Freese will forever be a known name in Mets lore after his strikeout completed Johan Santana’s 2012 no-hitter, but on Friday night, the veteran extracted a little bit of revenge against the boys in orange and blue. In New York’s 5-4 loss in Pittsburgh the veteran right handed hitter drove in all five Pirates’ runs, including a walk-off hit against Tim Peterson in the bottom of the ninth, to help keep the Bucs within striking distance in the National League Wild Card race.
The night couldn’t have started much better for the Mets, as following a Brandon Nimmo walk and a Wilmer Flores single, suddenly hot Michael Conforto deposited a 2-2 pitch from Ivan Nova into the right field seats to quickly put the visitors up 3-0.
Lefty Jason Vargas, making his first start in six weeks, took the mound in the bottom of the first and encouragingly retired the top of the Pittsburgh line-up in order. But after the Mets went quietly in the second, Vargas’ follow-up inning of work did not quite go as swimmingly.
Elias Diaz led off the frame with a hit, and Freese then contributed his first dose of damage, blasting a two-run shot to left to cut the New York lead to 3-2.
After the bumpy first inning, Nova was able to settle in and navigate through the middle innings with minimal difficulty, and while Vargas tossed a 1-2-3 third, he ran into significant trouble after that. In the fourth, he gave up a single to Diaz and a pair of walks before getting Jordy Mercer to fly out to left to strand the bases loaded. But in the fifth, Vargas wasn’t as lucky. A one-out walk to Jordan Luplow chased the southpaw from the game, but relief ace Seth Lugo was not in top form. After getting his first batter, Josh Harrison, to fly to right, Lugo allowed a hit and a walk that brought Freese to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Predictably, he ripped one right up the middle for a two-run single that flipped the game and put Pittsburgh up 4-3.
The Mets quickly responded in the next half inning, but they did so in strange fashion.
Conforto and Jose Bautista both walked to start the road sixth, which prompted Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle to replace Nova with hard-throwing righty Edgar Santana. Mets’ new everyday second baseman, (more on that later) Jeff McNeil, was then asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt, and he did even better than that. McNeil dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line, causing Santana to rush the throw to first without setting his feet and, after the throwing error, New York had the bases loaded with nobody out. Kevin Plawecki then struck out for the first out, but then things got weird. Jose Reyes hit a hard line drive to left field that Luplow caught on the run, and while the ball was clearly not deep enough to score Conforto from third base, Luplow unleashed a downright terrible throw to the plate that sailed to the backstop and allowed the Mets to tie the game on the throwing error.
New York got scoreless relief work from all of Tyler Bashlor, Jacob Rhame, Jerry Blevins and Anthony Swarzak, while Pittsburgh’s Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez were close to untouchable, and thus this game headed to the bottom of the ninth still tied at four apiece. On came Tim Peterson, the Mets’ seventh pitcher of the evening, and he was not quite as fortunate as the previous relievers.
Harrison led off the Pirates’ ninth with an infield hit, and when Gregory Polanco pulled a hit of his own through the hole, the Mets’ chances of getting this game to extra innings suddenly looked exceedingly bleak. New York intentionally walked Diaz to load the bases and set up a force at every base, but in doing so they brought Freese to the plate, whom they hadn’t retired all night. On the first pitch Peterson threw him, Freese crushed a line drive to the right center field fence to walk off the game and send the home fans home happy.
Tonight, New York will send ace right hander Jacob deGrom to the hill against the Pirates Trevor Williams, a game that looks like a pitcher’s dual on paper.
Roughly an hour before this game started news surfaced that the Mets had traded second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to the division rival Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Double-A right-hander Franklyn Kilome. It doesn’t mean much in the Mets organization, but our own Jeffrey Paternostro estimated that Kilome, who has shown some inconsistency throughout his career and is likely to end up as a reliever, could jump right into the top 5 in the system. Considering the fact that Cabrera is a rental, Kilome could easily end up being a great deal for the Mets.
Originally in the starting lineup, Cabrera was scratched and McNeil moved to second base with Reyes joining the the starting lineup at third. With the late transaction, the Mets were obviously unable to get a roster replacement to Pittsburgh in time to be active for the game, and thus played a man short on Friday night. One man who did make it in time was new Met Austin Jackson, who is either going to replace Jose Bautista or fit in as a fourth outfielder or maybe be the new closer.
Photo credit: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports