Thursday, May 18, 2023

Alonso Homers Again, Megill Mows Down Rays As Mets Take Series

Pete Alonso (left) is about to fist bump Brett Baty after his fourth-inning home run on Thursday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.


The Mets beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2, on Thursday afternoon at Citi Field to take the series, as Pete Alonso hit another monster home run, and they got another great start, this time from Tylor Megill.

With the two wins in this three-game set, the Mets (22-23) have now won their first series since they took two of three from the Dodgers in Los Angeles exactly one month ago. 

The Tampa Bay Rays saw their Major League-best record fall to 32-13, as they dropped four of seven in their week in New York, which began with a four-game split against the Yankees. 

Starting with the Yankees' win on Friday night, when Anthony Rizzo won it with a late home run, then coming back from 6-0 down on Saturday, and nearly pulling off another big comeback Sunday to the Mets' comeback on Wednesday night and this solid win, one could say the New York teams exposed Tampa Bay, in the sense that while they're a very good team, they may not be ready to join the pantheon of historic teams like 1998 Yankees or 1984 Tigers. Frankly, Tampa Bay will have enough trouble holding on to their American League East lead, since every team in the division has a winning record.

Tampa Bay did come out swinging in this one, as Josh Lowe opened the game with a double and then Randy Arozarena singled. 

Megill kept the inning in check as he got Harold Ramirez to ground into a force out, which brought in Lowe to make it 1-0 Rays, but then Brandon Lowe bounced into a double play.

Tylor Megill throwing a pitch that Josh Lowe turned into a double in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

In the bottom of the first, the Mets worked Taj Bradley to throw 30 pitches, but like the Rays, couldn't cash in.

Francisco Lindor drew a one-out walk, which was followed by a Jeff McNeil single to left field, on which he raced in to second when Arozarena took a while figuring out where to throw it in the infield, as the Rays were scattered about. 

The Mets wound up with runners at second and third with one out when Alonso walked to load the bases for Brett Baty.

Lindor came in to score when Baty grounded out to first base, and that tied it at 1 before Tommy Pham struck out to end the inning. 

A lot of movement: Rays first baseman Luke Raley fields a grounder from Brett Baty, who's running towards first, while Francisco Lindor scores and Pete Alonso heads for second base. Photo by Jason Schott.

Both pitchers settled in and faced the minimum over the second and third innings, and Megill retired Tampa Bay in order in the top of the fourth as he got two comebackers back to him and a strikeout. 

Alonso came up to start the bottom of the fourth for the Mets, and he launched one to center field. Arozarena didn't even look, and folded his arms, in his now-typical showy way, as it sailed to his left. 

This was Alonso's Major League-leading 16th home run, and 37th RBI, which ranks first in the National League and fourth in MLB, and that made it 2-1 Mets.

Pete Alonso after crossing the plate on his home run, as the fans applaud. Photo by Jason Schott.

Alonso homered in each game of this series, and he has been battling a cold as well.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of their first baseman after the game, "Everybody takes something that shortens it; you realize there's never been a cure for the cold, I know you know that, my Mother used to tell me that it has nothing to do with the weather, it has to do with a virus. Anyway, what I was thinking was, could we find something that would keep him sick, with lesser symptoms. Is there such a thing?

"There are so many things like that that guys play through that never even get brought up, but cause Pete's so upbeat and every day's a new day and, I don't know, effervescent, whatever, but when see, you know right away that something's bothering him when he's not like that. I think sometimes it relaxes you because it lowers your expectations a little bit, and he's a strong man."

Megill got through the fifth with ease, getting three fly balls to center field, and then retiring the first two in the sixth as the lineup turned over to Josh Lowe. 

Lowe, who had a double in the first, rocked one to center field, landing to the right of the home run apple, for a solo shot to tie the game at 2. It was Tampa Bay's first hit since the first inning, and it was his 10th home run and 30th RBI of the season.

The Mets stuck with Megill, as they had nobody up in the bullpen (the way he was pitching there was no reason to), and he walked Arozarena before Ramirez singled. 

With Brandon Lowe at bat, Ramirez leaned off first, and Mets catcher Michael Perez threw down to first to pick him off, which they did after drawing him into a rundown, and in an instant, the sixth inning was over.

The Mets responded in the bottom half of the sixth, as Zack Littell entered the game for Tampa Bay. McNeil started it off with a single, and then after Alonso flew out to center field. Baty singled to give the Mets runners at first and third for Pham, and he delivered a single to bring in Lindor and make it 3-2 Mets.

Since Megill was still the pitcher of record, he went on to earn the win, and improve his record to 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA (earned run average). He would exit after the sixth, so his final line was: 6 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, and he threw just 79 pitches, 48 of which were strikes.

Showalter said of Megill's performance, "Well, he got, a lot of,  (pitching coach) Jeremy (Hefner) and I were talking about, I guess the formula was to go 2-0 or 3-1 and get some pop-ups, I don't know, some of it. We're contemplating him pitching on regular rest, another reason why I was trying to keep his pitch count down today.

"I thought he found his slider in the second inning; that had really good shape to it today, and that's something he hasn't been consistent with, and I thought the shape of his slider was really good today."

Mets reliever Brooks Raley pitched a perfect seventh, with two strikeouts, and he allowed a single to Wander Franco to open the eighth before exiting. Jeff Brigham came on and got a pop-out from Christian Bethancourt and then a double play from Manuel Margot to end the frame. 

David Robertson worked around a one-out double from Arozarena as he got ground balls from Ramirez and Brandon Lowe to end it, and earn his eighth save of the season.

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