|Jeff McNeil (6) returning to the dugout after scoring in the eighth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets flipped the script on Sunday night in the series finale of their three-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.
After watching Atlanta win the first two games of the series with late rallies, the Mets put up five runs in the eighth inning to win, 8-5, ending their seven-game losing streak.
What made it satisfying was seeing two of their All-Stars contribute to it, as Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso had back-to-back two-run hits to give them the lead and add to it. (The Mets third All-Star is pitcher Jacob deGrom.)
"We talk about it all the time, these guys don't give up," Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of seeing his team complete a comeback. "You lose a bunch in a row and you're down late, you got to keep on fighting and that's what these guys did. Out two All-Stars came up with big two-out hits. J.D. Davis gets the start today, he gets three hits. Overall team effort, great job by (Wilmer) Font to hold them where they were at and Edwin Diaz seals the deal."
Font came in amidst a Braves rally in the seventh and then got three straight outs, then stayed on and retired them in order in the eighth, and he wound up with the win, his second of the season. Diaz had perhaps his best outing of the season, as he retired the top of the Braves order in succession to earn his 17th save of the season.
McNeil went 3-for-5 in this one, with two RBI and two runs scored, and improved his average to .348, passing the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger for the National League lead.
Callaway says of McNeil's ability to make contact, as he did when he dunked one into right field for his hit in the eighth inning, "That's what we talk about all the time - sometimes, you just have to touch the ball and good things will happen, and McNeil touches the ball more than most. That's the reason he's hitting .340-something and is on the All-Star team. He does a great job recognizing the situation, his bat stays in the zone a long time, and when you can do that, you're going to fight pitches off like he did tonight. His bat stayed in the zone a little bit, and he fought it off - he got jammed - but still gets it over the infielder and in front of the outfielder.
Noah Syndergaard made the start for the Mets, his first since he was placed on the 10-day injured list on June 16 with a right hamstring strain.
Syndergaard made a rehab start with the Brooklyn Cyclones on June 25 at the Aberdeen Ironbirds when he threw five innings, allowing three runs on five hits and striking out nine.
In a corresponding move to accommodate Syndergaard's return, outfielder Carlos Gomez was designated for assignment.
Callaway said before the game of what he expected to get from the big right-hander, "He will be on a pitch count - we'll keep him in between 90 and a hundred (pitches), you know, depending on how stressful the early innings are and so on and so forth. It's almost stretched out all the way, but we do have to keep an eye on him."
Atlanta got on the board in the first inning when Ronald Acuna, Jr., singled, stole second, went to third on a fly ball by Dansby Swanson, and came home on a two-out double by Josh Donaldson.
The Mets got the run back in the bottom of the first when McNeil singled, took second on a throwing error by Atlanta pitcher Max Fried on a pick-off attempt, and scored on a single from Davis.
Syndergaard retired the Braves in order in the second, but with one out in the third, Acuna, Jr., launched a home run into the bullpen in right field to make it 2-1 Braves.
Swanson and Freeman followed with singles, but Donaldson popped up to second and Nick Markakis struck out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third, McNeil hit one up the gap in right center that Acuna made a tremendous running grab on.
Alonso followed with walk, Davis singled, and Todd Frazier then laced an RBI single to tie it at 2.
Robinson Cano singled to load the bases, and Amed Rosario followed with a sacrifice fly to score Davis and make it 3-2 Mets before Tomas Nido hit into a force out to end the inning.
Syndergaard retired the Braves in order in the fourth, and he gave up a two-out single to Swanson in the fifth. With Freeman at bat, Nido called for a pitch-out and gunned down Swanson at second.
The Mets got two on in the fifth when Davis and Frazier got one-out singles, but Cano (who had two hits on the night at this point) bounced into a double play to end the threat.
Since he was at 74 pitches after five, Syndergaard came back for the sixth, which he started by walking Freeman and Donaldson.
Markakis hit into a force out, and then Austin Riley struck out. At this point, Syndergaard was at 96 pitches, right in the middle of the pitch count Callaway gave before the game (90-100).
Johan Camargo was up next, and he laced a single to score Freeman and tie the game at three. After Tyler Flowers then drew a walk, the third of the inning (first time Syndergaard issued three BBs in an inning in his career), and since he was at 106 pitches, that was all for Thor.
Callaway said of the performance of the big right-hander, "I thought Noah threw the ball really well. Obviously, he had a pitch count - we went past that a few pitches because I felt like he deserved it and it was a good matchup (against Flowers), made an excellent pitch 3-2 to the guy didn't get the call.
"All night, his stuff was sharp, I loved his curveball, his fastball was down like we wanted it. He was peppering the bottom of the zone against a great lineup and he looked really good. Glad to have him back."
Chris Flexen was out of the Mets bullpen to face Matt Joyce (pinch-hitting for the pitcher Fried) with the bases loaded and he got him to ground one to Cano in the shift to get out of trouble.
Flexen stayed on for the seventh and he allowed a single to Acuna to left field, then Swanson laced one down the right field line, and even though McNeil got to it in shallow right, Swanson took second base with ease for a double.
Freeman was up next and he creamed an 0-1 pitch into the left field corner to score Acuna and Swanson and make it 5-3 Braves, and that was all for Flexen.
Wilmer Font came on and got Donaldson to ground out to third base, then struck out Markakis, and got Riley to pop up to first to get out of further throuble. Font then stayed on for the eighth and retired the Braves in order again to give him six straight outs.
After Chad Sobotka threw two scoreless innings in relief of Fried, the Braves turned to Sean Newcomb for the bottom of the eighth and he didn't have it.
Frazier led off with a solo home run, then Cano was hit in the arm by a pitch up and in, followed by a single for Rosario.
Tomas Nido then laid down a bunt, but Donaldson charged and fired back to third base to nab Cano for the first out.
After Wilson Ramos flew out for the second out, the Braves turned to A.J. Minter to face Michael Conforto, and he walked to load the bases.
McNeil was up next and he fought one off and hit it into shallow right field to score Rosario and Nido and give the Mets the lead at 6-5.
Alonso followed with a two-run double to make it a five-run inning and give the Mets an 8-5 lead.
Edwin Diaz came on to close it out and he retired Acuna, Swanson, and Freeman in order in the ninth to give the Mets the win.
Callaway said of the mental aspect of the game possibly affecting Diaz's performance and what was different in this one, "That's so hard to say when it comes to a performer because those things can come and go. You know, you throw one good pitch and, all of a sudden, your mentality gets a little better. You get ahead of a hitter and you feel better, so that comes and goes a little bit, but it's the mechanics that we can really lock in on and make sure that we're doing the same thing every time and really work on, and then you always try to stay mentally tough.
"We know, as human beings, this game's not easy and things will creep into your head, and you've got to be able to back off and take a deep breath and try to clear all of that out of there before you make the next pitch, and that is something you battle every pitch. It's this constant game of making sure you're accomplishing this routine in between pitches so the mental part doesn't affect you. That comes and goes pitch to pitch, outing to outing.
"The mechanics of it is something that we can really work on and try to correct, and he was pretty good with it tonight. It looked like his direction, to me, from the dugout - I haven't looked at film yet, but it looked like it was a little bit better."