When two boxers are pining for the chance to step into the ring with each other, some would say they’d fight in a phone booth.
In Monday night’s slugfest, the Mets and Reds played in baseball’s version of a phone booth and there were haymakers aplenty.
Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, James McCann, and Luis Guillorme each had two hits apiece with Alonso, McNeil, and McCann homering. Michael Conforto hit two homers of his own and Dominic Smith added a tater, as well.
The Mets went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position, have scored 5.67 runs per game in July, and have a team 127 wRC+ this month — good for third in baseball over that span.
Onward and upward, indeed.
Let’s break down Monday night (in a somewhat expeditious fashion) from the spaghetti-chili capital of the world.
The Mets went up 3-0 in the first on home runs from Alonso and McNeil (hitting .345/.424/.483 over his eight-game hit streak) and Jerad Eickhoff gave it all back plus one in the bottom half and tacked on three more in the second.
Guillorme, as sure-handed as they come, committed three errors in the first. He’d get on base three times in the evening, so that’s a wash, right? I wouldn’t expect a meltdown like that to happen again any time soon. On we go.
The Mets are very thin in their rotation, but Eickhoff has become a liability and that ain’t gonna play. We discussed potential starting pitcher trade targets on Monday’s episode of Simply Amazin’. It’s time to make that move.
Down four but apparently still riding high from their comeback win in Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Mets struck back against the Reds in short order. This would become a theme for the evening.
Then, seemingly on cue, Smith absolutely tanked a solo homer to centerfield in the fifth, tying the game at seven. Unreal.
The fun would not end there.
After pitching on July 5 and July 10, then not seeing any action until this weekend in Pittsburgh, Lugo has been noticeably off his game.
A three-strikeout inning in the eighth to negate Tyler Naquin’s one-out single was an extremely encouraging sign that Lugo could be rediscovering his command. The timing would be impeccable.
Before we move ahead, big cap tip to Yennsy Diaz for getting through 1.1 scoreless frames in relief of Eickhoff. Popping out Winker to end the fifth with two on and the game tied was as big a spot as you’ll find in the middle innings. Love to see it.
James McCann was called on by acting manager Dave Jauss (Luis Rojas began serving his two-game suspension for his ejection on Sunday) to pinch-hit for Tomas Nido in the top of the eighth, still down a run with Conforto on first.
Jimmy Mac rewarded his bench coach handsomely.
Here’s where things got scary. Again.
Edwin Diaz, struggling mightily in recent days (six earned runs over his previous two outings after posting a 2.35 ERA over his previous seven appearances), walked Kyle Farmer to lead off the ninth after two very tough called balls put him in a 3-0 hole.
He struck out Tucker Barnhart on three sliders and got Jonathan India — who reached base six times (two hits, three walks, HBP) — to ground out, moving Aristides Aquino (running for Farmer) into scoring position for Winker.
Everyone — the SNY booth, the WCBS broadcast, the viewers and listeners, the Reds, everyone — was expecting the Mets to walk Winker and take their chances with pinch-hitter Mike Freeman. Not to be.
Winker doubled in Aquino to knot things up at nine and onto extras we went. Heck of a way to spend a Monday night, no?
As we’ve noted here recently and as Tim Britton of The Athletic really dove into this week, Diaz’s command and spin rates have gone a bit awry since MLB began checking for foreign grip substances on June 21.
His stuff is still well above-average in nearly every facet, but his command — which Diaz (and every other pitcher in the world) is reliant on — has been fleeting.
Keeping in mind that without any substances to increase grip, pitchers are adjusting to a brand new landscape after presumably always having something there to help.
If you think this is worrisome now in the summer humidity, wait until the postseason when guys will have to throw what equates to ice cubes from 60’ 6” away.
This will be a process, for Diaz and every other MLB pitcher who’s been forced to rediscover the feel for the baseball. I’d wait it out before casting him off.
That said, it may very well be time for the Mets to give Trevor May more save opportunities or to give Jed Hoyer a buzz in Chicago and see if bundling a bat and a closer in a trade is a possibility.
Back to the game.
McCann put the Mets ahead with a one-out base hit in the 10th, scoring ghost-runner Kevin Pillar. Joey Votto and Naquin strung together a couple of hits off the newly-acquired Anthony Banda to tie the game at 10 in the bottom of the inning.
And then the Mets busted things open.
Nimmo singled to move Jose Peraza (free runner) to third. McNeil brought home Peraza with a line drive into right to give New York an 11-10 lead. They weren’t done there.
Pillar — who entered in the ninth to pinch-hit for Lugo — came through in spades with a three-run blast later in the frame and Conforto, hitting .364/.481/1.000 over his last seven games, put a cherry on top with his second home run of the game.
The Reds would tack on one in the bottom of the 11th and threatened with two on for May, who shut the door with a 3-2 fastball to get Freeman swinging.
These are the types of wins a team looks back on — Sunday too, for that matter — and draws inspiration from later in the year. This is what the Mets have been doing all year. Just being resilient.
After the game, Pillar touched on that aspect of this team’s unlikely trek to the top of the NL East pack and the campout that’s followed at the peak.
“I keep using the quote that we’re built for this and I think that [Monday] was a perfect example,” he said. “We went through every single guy on the bench. I was the last guy off the bench.”
“We had two new pitchers brought up today. We had some guys in the bullpen that were unavailable because they had to cover so many innings [on Sunday]. And no one flinched.”
McCann also spoke on the resiliency that this team has embraced this season.
“Yes, it was up and down. A lot of lead changes,” he said. “But I don’t think guys wavered for one minute. Guys just kept chipping away, understanding that we still had outs, we still had at-bats, we still had innings to go, a never-give-in mentality.”
“That’s part of the culture that just makes it so fun to show up and play every day with this group of guys.”
Fun, indeed. Keep it moving forward.
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