In a season where the importance of every game grows each day, big wins are important for a team struggling to stay afloat. On Saturday night, the Mets delivered just that. The Mets kept pace in the National League, thanks to a good start from Seth Lugo. Following six strong innings from Porcello on Friday, Lugo gave the Mets five more strong innings. The overworked Mets bullpen needed two games like this, with Met starters averaging around four innings per start over the last seven games. After a tough loss on Friday, the Mets rebounded by shutting the Phillies down. With just 20 games to go, the Mets sit four games under .500 with a need to improve.
Phillies Strike First
The game began just like any other Mets game, with the starting pitcher allowing an early run. The Phillies gained the 1-0 lead thanks to a first-inning home run by Rhys Hoskins. This was Hoskins’ seventh home run in his last 11 games and his eighth of the year. For Seth Lugo, that was all he would allow aside from three more hits and two walks. Lugo went five innings and allowed one run on four hits and two walks. The former closer struck out eight batters, a season-high in his third start since being moved to the rotation. Lugo worked out of the bullpen in his first nine appearances. It took a few innings but the Met bats got going behind Lugo.
Mets Storm Back
In the bottom of the third, the Mets scored almost in an instant. Jeff McNeil, who has been red hot lately, hit a leadoff double. Andres Gimenez’s single drove him home. McNeil, who struggled earlier in the season, has been hot to start September, going 8-21 with four doubles. McNeil’s OPS is .980 for the month of September. Gimenez’s last two games have been good as well, collecting four hits in six at-bats with four RBIs. After two groundouts moved Gimenez to third base, Michael Conforto blooped a single to left to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Conforto has by far been the Mets’ best and most consistent position player this year. Conforto has an OPS of .961 and an OPS+ of 165, he has seven homers and 24 RBIs as well. His wRC+ is 165 and his .331 batting average is good for fourth in the majors.
Mets keep Momentum
The Mets tacked on a run in each of the next three innings. In the fourth inning, following a hit batsman and another McNeil double, Gimenez popped out to second baseman Neil Walker. Walker retreated and caught the ball on his heels in the outfield grass and Frazier took note. Walker could not camp under the ball and Frazier took off, scoring from third on a weak, errant throw. The Mets knew with Frazier they would get a great clubhouse guy, but they also got a smart baseball mind. The team got a clear boost from Frazier’s return to New York, going 3-0 when he’s in the lineup.
In the fifth, the Mets loaded the bases with nobody out and were only able to scratch across one run. The run came from Dom Smith grounding into a fielder’s choice, his team-leading 28th RBI of the season. Smith has been something of a revelation for the Mets, with an OPS of .992 and OPS+ of 169. Though, Smith has cooled off lately, going just seven for his last 30 with zero home runs. The fifth and final Met run came on an RBI double from Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos was acquired at the trade deadline and played in his second game as a Met. The 36-year-old catcher was brought on to reduce the workload on Wilson Ramos and have a tryout for next year’s team. Chirinos has a club option next year and, if he plays well, that could be picked up by the Mets.
The Mets bullpen, which has now been thoroughly rested, pitched very well on Saturday. Four relievers combined to allow six runners to reach base over four innings. The Mets got solid innings from Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Edwin Diaz, but perhaps the best was from Miguel Castro. Castro would allow just one baserunner, a J.T. Realmuto infield hit, which was later erased on a double play. A shutdown inning was big for Castro, who allowed two runs in his previous appearance against the Yankees on Thursday. Edwin Diaz, who pitched the ninth inning, had another three strikeout performance. Diaz has allowed runs in just four of his 17 appearances this season, allowing just four earned runs.
Though many Mets fans don’t trust him, Diaz has been one of the more reliable relievers this year. His ERA is down at 2.12, the second lowest mark of his career. Additionally, his FIP is low at 2.44, the third lowest of his career. The one knock on Diaz is that he hasn’t been the closer, like the Mets thought. In six save opportunities, Diaz has converted on just two of them and has been hectic at times. He has been thrust into tough situations, but those are what shutdown closers are supposed to thrive in. High pressure situations to save ballgames. Diaz has been a good reliever this year, but not in the way the Mets expected and hoped for him to be.
Series Closing Game
The Mets will continue this series on Sunday in a battle of aces. Aaron Nola is set to go for the Phillies, while Jacob deGrom goes for the Mets. A win would be huge for the Mets, who trail the Rockies by 1 ½ games for the eighth seed. Exactly 40 games through the season the Mets have been underperforming expectations. For the Mets to complete my original prediction of 34-36 wins they need to finish between 16-4 and 18-2 down the stretch. A tall order for a team who has struggled to show any consistency throughout the year. A second win over the Phillies, however, is a great place to start.
STANDING: 4th NL East