By Joe Rini
NEW YORK, Sep 16 — The New York Mets used an all around effort to hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates 4–3 at Citi Field on Friday evening. Taijuan Walker and Edwin Diaz combined to pick up their 12th win and 30th save of the season, respectively. Timely hitting and timely defensive gems also enabled the Mets to secure their 91st win of the season. The victory maintains their one-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings.
Walker pitched well for the second start in a row. He retired the first 11 batters faced, and pitched the first 7 1/3 innings. Overall, he limited the Pirates to three runs and five hits while striking out five.
Defensive Gem by McNeil
The Mets opened the scoring with a run in the third inning. After retiring the first seven Mets, Mitch Keller walked Eduardo Escobar with one out. The next hitter Tomas Nido floated a single down the right field line. However, with Escobar running on the pitch, he scored easily for a 1–0 Mets lead. The Mets upped the lead to 2–0 on a two-out solo home run by Daniel Vogelbach in the fourth inning.
A defensive gem bolstered the all around effort by the Mets. The Pirates cut the lead to 2–1 in the top of the fifth inning, but Jeff McNeil’s glove prevented further damage. Ke’Bryan Hayes reached base on an error by Escobar leading off the Pirates’ fifth. He moved to third on a hit by Calvin Mitchell and scored on Michael Chavis’ infield single. Walker retired the next two hitters before Oneil Cruz launched a would-be drive over the right field wall. However, a leaping McNeil timed his jump perfectly and snatched a three-run home run away from Cruz and the Mets held a 2–1 lead.
All Around Effort Builds Mets’ Lead
The Mets small-balled their way to a run in the sixth inning. Brandon Nimmo poked a single to left and then stole second base. The next batter Francisco Lindor lined a single to left to put runners on corners with no out. After McNeil struck out, Pete Alonso skied a sacrifice fly to center and the Mets led by a score of 3–1. They subsequently loaded the bases with two outs, but Keller retired Luis Guillorme on a short pop-up to short.
The Mets added to their lead in the seventh inning off reliever Manny Banuelos. Escobar led off with a double to left center, and moved to third when Tomas Nido reached on an error by Cruz. Nimmo popped a single to “no man’s” land in short left field that Cruz couldn’t secure, scoring Escobar, and the Mets led 4–1 after seven innings.
Nido and Guillorme’s Gem
Walker cruised into the seventh inning before Cruz ended his evening. After Tyler Heineman singled with one out, Cruz made sure his next drive wouldn’t be caught over the fence. He crushed Walker’s 100th pitch of the evening over the 408 sign in centerfield to make it a one-run game at 4–3. Manager Buck Showalter summoned closer Edwin Diaz for a five-out save, and he retired the Pirates in the eighth inning.
Protecting a one-run lead, Diaz opened the top of the ninth inning with a four-pitch walk to Ben Gamel. As tremors of wariness spread among the crowd of 28,928, the defense rescued the Mets again. An on-target throw by Nido and expert tag by Guillorme combined to throw out pinch-runner Greg Allen trying to steal second, short-circuiting the Pirates’ threat. With one last gasp to tie the score with two outs, McNeil caught Mitchell’s long drive in front of the wall in right-center, and the Mets were 4–3 winners. An all around effort by the Mets in a game that featured the long ball, small ball, defensive gems, and effective pitching provided the margin of victory.
LWOB Question to Showalter
Before the game, LWOB asked Showalter about how he balances showing faith in struggling veterans with the demands of the stretch run. “It’s tough,” he said. “You try to keep in mind the priority of where you are in the season. I think the players respect that some things change. You do a lot of little things differently.”
Showalter noted there are different phases of managing during the season: spring training; the regular season; September; and the postseason. Speaking of the postseason, he said, “There’s really a different mode of operation. If you tried doing that in the regular season every time, no one would make it through physically. You try to make sure people are healthy but also when you get to a certain stage of the season, you’re not getting ready for November.”