(Former Met Wilmer Flores ready to hit against Jacob deGrom – Photo by Jason Schott)
On Monday night, the Mets, led by a great outing by Jacob deGrom and two home runs from Pete Alonso, beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-1, on Monday night at Citi Field.
This was the start of a four-game series at Citi Field against one of their contenders in the Wild Card race, a golden opportunity to pick up ground.
With the win, the Mets are now 73-70 and they trail Arizona (75-69) by just 1 1/2 games, and the Chicago Cubs (76-66, holders of the second Wild Card spot) by 3 1/2 games.
While this night was one about two teams in the heat of a pennant race, it also was about reflection.
The Mets paid tribute with a pregame video to fan favorite Wilmer Flores, who made his first visit back as a member of the Diamondbacks, playing second base and batting fifth. The highlight of his night was when he homered off deGrom in the fifth inning.
deGrom was superb, as he went seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk, with 11 strikeouts. This was the ninth time this season, and 41st in his career, that he struck out 10-plus batters in a game.
“Vintage Jake” was how Mets Manager Mickey Callaway described the defending Cy Young Award winner’s outing. “Fastball, pinpoint at times,can elevate when he needs to, execute the changeup, get the slider down and away, just dominant.”
The Mets got an early lead against Arizona starter Merrill Kelly (who entered with a record of 10-13, 4.69 ERA) when Pete Alonso hit a solo home run in the first inning, his 46th of the season.
With that homer, the first baseman has now reached base in 34 straight games to set a new Mets franchise record.
In the fourth, Wilson Ramos doubled up the gap in right-center field, and came around to score on a two-out single by Amed Rosario to make it 2-0 Mets.
Rosario reached the plate after the D-Backs decided to intentionally walk Brandon Nimmo (who entered with a .204 average) when the count against him reached 3-0, and knowing that Rosario got a single his first time up.
Flores made his second plate appearance leading off the fifth – after he grounded to shortstop in the second – and he creamed one to deep left for a solo homer to pull Arizona within a run.
Callaway said of Flores’ shot, “Wilmer hits great pitching – short, quick, swing, and that was the only flaw of the night” for deGrom.”
The Mets got that run back in the bottom of the fifth when Alonso hit his second homer of the night, number 47, to put the Mets on top, 3-1.
This pulled Alonso within two of Mark McGwire (49 in 1987) for second-most homers in a season for a rookie, and five of Yankee Aaron Judge (52 in 2017) for the record. There are still 19 games left for Alonso to make history.
“When they throw him strikes, he’s going to hit the ball hard, first and foremost,” Callaway said, “and then there’s gotta be some anxiety when pitchers have to face Pete, so if he doesn’t get on via hit, he’s getting on via walk. He’s just a great hitter, and if you make a big mistake – or it doesn’t even have to be a big mistake, I mean, that second homer, that pitch wasn’t that bad a pitch, he just went down and got it – he’s gonna make you pay.
“I’m impressed every day by Pete, I mean he’s pretty good.”
Seth Lugo came on for the Mets in the eighth, and he pitched the final two innings, retiring six D-Backs in a row with four strikeouts.