Friday, May 19, 2023

Mets Making A Habit Of Big Comebacks, Led By Alonso & Alvarez


Pete Alonso connecting on his seventh-inning game-tying grand slam. Photo by Jason Schott.

Just as they did on Wednesday night, when they had a wild comeback win over the Tampa Bay Rays, with a by-comparison mundane win on Thursday afternoon over the Rays in between, the Mets stormed back from a 5-0 deficit to beat the Cleveland Guardians, 10-9 on Friday night at Citi Field.

The comebacks were in near-identical fashion, as they came back from three distinct deficits, 5-0, 7-3, and 9-7, and did it with home runs from Pete Alonso, who hit a grand slam in the seventh inning to tie it at seven, his fourth home run in as many games; Francisco Alvarez, and Brett Baty. On Wednesday, Alvarez had the game-tying three-run home run and Alonso had the game-winning three-run homer, and sub in one rookie in Baty for Mark Vientos, whose homer began Wednesday's comeback and seemingly 48 hours of ecstasy that have reignited this season.

Pete Alonso and the three who scored on his grand slam, Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, and Jeff McNeil, huddle after he crossed the plate. Photo by Jason Schott.

With these three wins, the Mets have now climbed back to the .500 mark, at 23-23, the first time they have been here since May 6. The Mets hope talk like this will be history soon enough.

Carlos Carrasco got the start for the Mets, making his first appearance in nearly five weeks since his last outing against the Oakland Athletics on April 15 before he was sidelined by an elbow injury.

Cleveland went to work immediately against their former teammate, as Josh Naylor blasted a three-run home run to right field in the top of the first. It was his seventh dinger of the season.

Josh Naylor connecting on his first inning home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Guardians then tacked another run on the board in the second when Myles Straw doubled and came in to score on a single from Cam Gallagher. They ran the lead to 5-0 in the fifth when ex-Met Amed Rosario got an RBI single.

Meanwhile, Guardians starting pitcher Cal Quantrill yielded just one hit over the first four innings, but just one swing essentially made up for all that.

With one out in the fifth, Alvarez blasted one to left field for a solo shot, his second homer in three at-bats = he homered in the ninth Wednesday, did not play on Thursday and was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat Friday. This was the Mets catcher's fifth home run of the season.

Then, after Quantrill struck out Brandon Nimmo for the second out, Francisco Lindor launched one off the fence in left-center field, missing a home run by a matter of a few feet. Jeff McNeil singled him home, and it became 5-2 Cleveland. Alonso was up next, and he blooped one to short that Rosario dropped, but because Alonso stopped running, he was thrown out easily at first.

Then, in the sixth, with Quantrill still out there for Cleveland, Baty led off with a blast the other way into the left field corner for a solo shot, and the Mets were within 5-3.

Quantrill recovered to get the next two outs and appeared to get out of it when Mark Canha hit a dribbler to shortstop. Rosario came in for it, and couldn't corral it, so Canha was safe on the "base hit."

That ended Quantrill's night, and in came left-hander Sam Hentges, who got an excitable Alvarez to fly out to right field to end the sixth.

The Mets had gone to Dominic Leone in the sixth, which he worked around two leadoff singles, and decided for him to come back out for the seventh, which had so much action this column could literally have been on this one inning.

Will Brennan and Gallagher led off with singles, followed by a Steven Kwan walk to load the bases, and that was all for Leone.

In came Stephen Nogosek, and he got Rosario to hit a liner to center field that somehow stayed up for Nimmo to make the catch.

Nimmo was not playing all that deep, and he had to run in a bunch of steps to catch it, but Cleveland elected to send Brennan to the plate. Nimmo fired a rocket to the plate that Alvarez ran out to grab to the left of the plate. At this point, Brennan was barely halfway there, so Alvarez got him in a rundown to complete the wild 8-2-5 double play.

Nogosek gave Cleveland a reprieve, as he walked Jose Ramirez to load the bases, and Naylor followed with a two-run single to put Cleveland up, 7-3.

Tommy Hunter then came on for the Mets, and he walked Bell to load the bases once again, but he got another ex-Met, Andres Gimenez to hit a weak grounder to second base to end the frame.

Hengtes stayed in for Cleveland, and the Mets had the top of the order up. He opened the frame by walking Nimmo, which sent Citi Field into a frenzy of anticipation. Lindor then singled, and McNeil walked to load the bases and chase Hengtes from the game.

In came number 99, no, not Ricky Vaughn, but James Karinchak, and his assignment was to face Alonso with the bases loaded and none out. 

As if on cue, Alonso blasted one to right field into the bullpens to tie the game at seven, and Citi Field was as loud as ever. 

Pete Alonso touching third base, as 3B coach Joey Cora is ready to greet him, while Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez and shortstop Amed Rosario try not to look. Photo by Jason Schott.

This was the fourth straight game Alonso homered in, the third Grand Slam of his career, and to top it all off, the 71st home run he has hit at Citi Field, tying him with Lucas Duda for the record of long balls hit at the 15-year-old ballpark. It also was his 17th homer of the season, to go along with 41 RBI.

The trio who scored on Pete Alonso's grand slam - Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil - wait for him to touch the plate. Photo by Jason Schott. 

Then, as if to quiet things down after such drama, Mets reliever Adam Ottavino pitched a perfect top of the eighth, Cleveland's Enyel De Los did the same in the bottom of the eighth, Mets closer David Robertson was three-up, three-down in the top of the ninth, and Cleveland's Trevor Stephan retired the Mets in order in the bottom of the ninth, which included strikeouts of Alonso and Baty.

Then, the top of the tenth inning arrived, and Drew Smith came on for the Mets, and with Jose Ramirez at second, he allowed a two-run home run to Gabriel Arias and Cleveland was back on top, 9-7. Arias entered as a pinch-runner for Bell in the seventh, and took over at first base then as well.

Cleveland turned to their closer Emmanuel Clase in the bottom of the tenth, and with Baty at second as the ghost runner, Mark Vientos got a one-out RBI single to bring him in and make it a 9-8 game.

Then, after Daniel Vogelbach struck out for the second out, Alvarez got a clutch RBI single to being in Eduardo Escobar (who ran for Vientos) to tie it at 9.

Nimmo kept it going with a single, and Lindor - fitting because this was his first game against Cleveland since he was traded to the Mets two years ago - singled home Alvarez with the winning run.

Lindor, in an interview with SNY's Steve Gelbs on the field, said to the crowd of the two massive comebacks, "We're sticking together, we're playing for each other, we're playing for everyone here, we don't back down from any challenges that we got in our way, and God is good, man."

On the performance of the rookies Vientos and Alvarez in that tenth inning, Lindor said, "We call them the babies, the baby Mets. They're doing an outstanding job of grinding at-bats, running the bases hard, being accountable. We've got to tip our hats to one of our leaders, Nimmo, that at-bat at the end, just, you know, just putting the ball in play. I know I haven't done that a lot, but thank you for sticking with me."

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said, in his postgame press conference, of how relentless this group has been these past few nights, "They're just tired of losing, how's that for oversimplifying it. You know, I shouldn't say losing, they're just tired of not having the Mets score more runs than the other team after nine innings, and that's losing, okay. Sometimes it's as simple as that, that here, once in a while, you trust guys that you know care and have good makeup and you say, you go home at night, at some point, you know, it's going to turn for them. Believe me, they were tired of it the first time it happened, the first loss of the season. I remember our guys weren't happy about a spring training game, but, you know, feel great from the standpoint they're getting return for how much they care, and I tell them all the time the baseball Gods will let you up if you stay true to it, you just can't give in and the lure at every turn because they're constantly have the chance to go down a negative mentality, and there's just so many influences other than the game itself, you just can't go there. It's hard, I tell them all the time, what do you bring that separates you, you know, what can we count on, you know, effort and caring should never go into a slump."

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