(Noah Syndergaard on the hill for the Mets – Photo by Jason Schott)
For the second straight night, the Mets came from behind late to beat the Washington Nationals, 4-3, on Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 43,875 at Citi Field.
It was the Mets’ eighth straight win and they have now won 15 of their last 16 games. They are now 61-56 and trail Washington by a half-game for the top Wild Card spot.
The Mets were trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the eighth when Luis Guillorme tied it with a pinch-hit home run, the first homer of his career, and J.D. Davis gave them the lead with a sacrifice fly.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of what he was thinking of Guillorme being one of the heroes in this one, “Outstanding. He’s been working hard in early work, really going the other way and allowing himself to lay off some pitches with that approach, and he was able to do that, get into a hitter’s count and then put a good swing on one. One of the reasons we wanted to keep Guillorme, so we had a left-handed bench bat and he came through big tonight.”
Callaway was referring to how the Mets elected to keep Guillorme on the roster on Friday when they had to make a move with the addition of Joe Panik.
In what would be expected when these teams meet, each team sent a top pitcher to the mound as the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard faced off against the Nationals’ Patrick Corbin.
It didn’t take long for the Nationals to get an early lead on Syndergaard, as Juan Soto went opposite-field and hit a two-run home run to the seats in left-center field.
The Nationals had a golden opportunity to add to their lead in the third when Anthony Rendon singled and Soto walked to start off the frame, but Matt Adams bounced into a double play and old friend Asdrubal Cabrera flew out to center.
Corbin was masterful through the first three innings, as he struck out five and allowed one hit, a single to Michael Conforto in the second.
The Mets erupted in the fourth inning when J.D. Davis and Wilson Ramos went back-to-back with two solo home runs to deep left to tie it up at 2.
This was the eighth time the Mets have gone back-to-back this season and it clinched a franchise record, as it’s the eighth straight game they have hit multiple home runs.
Ramos became the first Met catcher to homer on his birthday since Anthony Recker on August 29, 2013.
In eight games this month, Ramos is hitting .387 (12-31) with three homers, 13 RBI, four runs, a double, and a 1.134 OPS.
Callaway said of Ramos stepping it up with the bat during this run, “He’s obviously catching a majority of the games and you need his bat in the middle in the lineup. He is driving in runs, he has a great approach…He’s done a tremendous job and he deserves to catch as often as possible.”
That Ramos home run was the last hit the Mets would get against Corbin, who only allowed a walk to Syndergaard in the fifth inning before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Corbin’s final line read: 6 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 1 walk, and 8 strikeouts.
The Nationals got a runner on in the seventh with Andrew Stevenson, who was pinch-hitting for Corbin, singled with one out, but he was erased when Trea Turner hit into a double play to end the frame.
Syndergaard went seven innings, the sixth straight start he has done so, and he allowed just those two runs in the first inning on seven hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.
Callaway said of Syndergaard’s outing, “He was really battling his arm slot today, but he grinded through it, and Ramos really helped him. I thought they had a great gameplan; they executed it well.”
Seth Lugo came on for the Mets in the eighth, and after retiring the first two batters with ease, he gave up a bomb to Soto that landed in the Coca-Cola Corner in right field to give the Nats a 3-2 lead.
It was Soto’s second homer of the night, giving him 24 on the season, and his three RBI give him 77.
After Hunter Strickland pitched a scoreless seventh for Washington, they turned to Fernando Rodney for the eighth.
Luis Guillorme was the first batter he would face, as he was pinch-hitting for Juan Lagares.
Guillorme drove one to deep right field for a solo homer to tie the game, the first of his career, to tie it at 3. It was the ninth pinch-hit home run the Mets have had this season.
Callaway said of what he expected from Guillorme in that spot when he sent him in, “You’re just looking for a good at-bat, you know, whether he walks, you’re just looking to put pressure on their pitching staff, you just want a good at-bat, whether he makes him throw some pitches, you know, bunt to get on, a single, but we’ll take the homer.”
Joe Panik, who entered the game for the Mets in the top of the eighth, was up next and he hit one up the middle.
Turner, the Nationals shortstop, got to it, but he threw it away at first, allowing Panik to reach on an error.
Jeff McNeil followed with a line drive up the middle to give the Mets two on and none out, and that was all for Rodney.
Next out of the Nats bullpen was Daniel Hudson, one of their big trade deadline acquisitions, who they probably should have turned to at the start of the inning.
Amed Rosario was the first batter Hudson would face, and he lined one back to him, and he couldn’t handle it initially, but recovered to get Rosario out at first.
It was enough to move Panik and McNeil to second and third with one out and force them to intentionally walk Pete Alonso to load the bases to bring up Davis with the bases loaded. Interestingly, Alonso had struck out three times in this one, twice looking, against Corbin, while the man coming to the plate, Davis, homered earlier.
Davis got the job done, as he hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Panik and make it 4-3 Mets.
Callaway said of Davis being able to make contact while down 0-2 in the count against Hudson, “It’s very tough, right, he’s trying to elevate on you, trying to get you to swing and miss, pop one up on the infield, and you have to stay short and quick. He fouled one off with a nice, short quick swing and then kept on grinding, and he didn’t try to do too much – that’s the key. We talk about it all the time; if you want to drive in runs, you’ve got to stay in the middle of the field or go the other way, and that’s exactly what he did. He wasn’t trying to do too much; he just wanted to touch the ball and it got out far enough where we could score a run.”
Ramos was up next, and he hit one to right-center that was caught at the fence by Victor Robles.
Lugo stayed on for the ninth to close it out, and he retired the Nats in order, and notched two strikeouts in the process.
Callaway said of sticking with Lugo in the ninth instead of going to Edwin Diaz, “Once Lugo pitches, I’m not sure if he’s going to be available the next day. At that point, if we’re going to stay tied or we’re going to take the lead, we’re going to leave him in and then make sure he wasn’t available tomorrow. We have all the confidence in the world in Diaz as well, and Diaz will step up tomorrow and get a save.
“This is not easy. It’s not easy on the players, and we wouldn’t be able to do this if we didn’t have Edwin Diaz, who just wants to win and is very flexible, and he is going to give us his best when his name is called. Unbelievable guy we have to help save us games and I ind of commend him for that more than anybody.”
Callaway was then asked if this proves what he said a week ago about the late-inning bullpen roles being flexible, “I think we have to do that at this point, and not just when it comes to that role – every role. Ramos catching Noah today, Noah said, ‘let’s do it, and he threw another seven innings of two-run ball.
“It takes selflessness to do special things and that’s what these guys are doing now.”
Lugo earned the win to improve to 5-2 on the season, while Rodney took the loss and fell to 0-5.
Callaway said of Lugo coming back for the ninth after giving up that home run to Soto in the eighth, “That’s clutch, you know, I figured he would. He was making good pitches that whole inning, made one bad pitch to a very dangerous hitter, as we’ve seen, what, three home runs in two games. That kid can flat-out hit – you make a mistake out over and he’s going to make you pay.
“To me, he threw the ball well and just gave us even more confidence in all the other pitches that inning to be able to send him back out if we tied it or took the lead.”