Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Vientos Starts Mets’ Comeback Past Rays On Way To Their Best Win Of Season


Mark Vientos crossing the plate on his seventh-inning home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets had their best win of the season on Wednesday night at Citi Field, as they battled back from 2-0, 5-2, and 7-5 deficits to stun the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-7, in 10 innings, powered by home runs from Mark Vientos, Francisco Alvarez, and Pete Alonso.

This was just the win the Mets needed, as very little up until now would make anyone think they could pull off a win like this. They improved to 21-23 on the season, and have the chance to win this three-game series with the Major League-best Rays on Thursday afternoon.

Kodai Senga got the night rolling for the Mets with his best start of the season, bouncing back from a tough outing at Cincinnati last Thursday.

Kodai Senga firing one by Wander Franco in the third inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Japanese import threw six strong innings, allowing on run on three hits and three walks, with 12 strikeouts, the most ever by a Japanese-born pitcher in Mets history. He also lowered his ERA (earned run average) from 4.14 to 3.77.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of Senga in his postgame comments, "That's his best command, and hope it's a sign of him kind of settling in a bit. That was really fun to watch against, obviously, a real good lineup."

In the first three innings, seven of the nine outs Senga recorded were strikeouts, and the other two were routine fly balls to left field. He only allowed a walk to Wander Franco in the first and a single to Isaac Paredes in that time span.

Tampa Bay got to him in the fourth, as Brandon Lowe lined one just over the glove of Mets first baseman Pete Alonso for a double into the right field corner. He came in to score on a double from Paredes off the wall in right field to make it 1-0 Rays.

Josh Fleming got the start for the Rays, and he rolled through five shutout innings, as he scattered three hits and two walks, while striking out two.

Josh Fleming pitching to Tommy Pham in the fourth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Tampa Bay turned to right-hander Kevin Kelly in the sixth, and that enabled the Mets to bring in Jeff McNeil to pinch-hit for Eduardo Escobar, a move that nearly paid instant dividends.

McNeil hit a rocket the other way, up the left-center field gap, and Rays center fielder Jose Siri caught it, as he leaped full-extension to haul it in. 

Francisco Lindor then singled, and Alonso grounded to second base, and Daniel Vogelbach was then announced as a pinch-hitter for Tommy Pham. With that, Tampa Bay turned to lefty Jake Diekman, and he struck out Vogelbach looking to end the inning.

The Mets turned to Jeff Brigham for the seventh, and he struck out the first two hitters before Siri came up, and he followed up his superb defense an inning earlier with a bomb to right field for a solo shot to make it 2-0 Rays.

Ryan Thompson came on for the Rays in the bottom of the seventh, and after striking out Starling Marte to open the inning, he hit Mark Canha with a pitch.

Mark Vientos, who was called up earlier in the day and was hitless in his first two at-bats, strode to the plate, and he blasted one to center field.

Siri was making a run at it, but as he leaped at the fence, it clanged off a railing for a two-run shot and the game was tied at 2.

Vientos, a Norwalk, CT, native, had one home run in 16 games with the Mets last season, and he hit 13 dingers in 38 games at Triple-A Syracuse this year before the call-up.

Mark Vientos making his way through the dugout with the crowd in a frenzy, as first baseman Wayne Kirby tosses the ball in the dugout for safekeeping. Photo by Jason Schott.

The exuberance from the Vientos homer would be short-lived, as Tampa Bay returned the favor in the top of the eighth against Adam Ottavino. 

Randy Arozarena walked to open the inning before Brandon Lowe drove one to right field for a two-run shot, his eighth of the season, and the Rays were up, 4-2.

Brandon Lowe touching home plate on his home run as Adam Ottavino strolls by the mound. Photo by Jason Schott.

With the Mets trailing going into the night, they turned to Stephen Nogosek and not David Robertson, and Tampa Bay took advantage. Josh Lowe led off with a double, moved to third base on a Wander Franco groundout, and came in to score on an Arozarena single to make it 5-2.

Tampa Bay went with Jason Adam to close it out in the bottom of the ninth, and Vogelbach opened it with a walk, followed by Marte getting hit by a pitch.

The Mets then sent up Brett Baty to pinch-hit for Canha, and he struck out. Vientos then flew out to center field for the second out.

Francisco Alvarez, who to this point in the night hit into a trio of 6-3s (shortstop to first base outs), was their last hope. 

The Mets catcher destroyed the 77 mile-per-hour offspeed pitch that hung over the plate off the facade of the second deck in left field, and the three-run homer tied it at 5. That was his fourth home run of the season, to go along with nine RBI.

David Robertson came on for the Mets for the 10th inning, a seeming benefit for not turning to him an inning earlier.

The ghost runner at second, Taylor Walls, welcomed Robertson to the game with a steal of third base. He then came in on a Harold Ramirez single to make it 6-5. Ramirez advanced to second base on a groundout by Siri, and then he came in a Josh Lowe RBI single that put the Rays up two.

Pete Fairbanks came on to close it out for Tampa Bay, and Brandon Nimmo was the ghost runner at second base for the Mets.

McNeil lined a single to left field, and Nimmo went to third, which instantly brought up the tying run in Lindor, but he struck out.

Alonso was up next, and evocative of many big moments last season, he blasted one into the second deck in left field for a three-run homer to give the Mets the 8-7 win.

The Mets first baseman, who entered this one with an uncharacteristic .233 average, now has 15 home runs and 36 RBI on the season.

Alonso was interviewed by SNY’s Steve Gelbs on the field after the walk-off, the Mets’ first of the season, and he said, “That’s awesome, we’ve been grinding all year, and today’s a huge building block for us, and thank you guys for staying. You guys are absolutely awesome for staying this whole time. 

“Hey, it’s a great building block, we want to keep it going.”

On what a win like that can do for the Mets, Alonso said, “It’s just great. We had a couple different young guys step up in really huge spots for us and we had some great at-bats all night, and it just happened to come at the end, so it was a great win for us. Great team win.”

Alonso then said of Vientos and Alvarez, “They’re pros. They’re absolutely professionals. I know they’re young, they’re very early in their careers, but they’re pros, and they’re able to make an impact and we needed that.”

And, finally, Alonso left the fans with this message, “Hey, thanks for coming out guys, let's f**kin' go Mets!"

Showalter said of the comeback, with a nod to their struggles, afterwards in his postgame comments, "It's painful to watch people you care about go through, you know, some of the things, and they'll be the first to say it's self-inflicted, so, you know, tonight they refused to roll over. A lot of opportunities against some really good pitchers, you know, Tampa's got a lot of weapons in their bullpen and it's hard to match up. 

"It all goes back to the outing that Kodai had, too, you know, don't forget that. That's his best command, and hope it's a sign of him kind of settling in a bit. That was really fun to watch against, obviously, a real good lineup."

On if this win can take some pressure off the Mets, Showalter said, "It takes that off for, what, about 12 or 14 hours, and everybody goes and gets their four hours of sleep and comes back and does it again."

The series finale will be at 1:10 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, with Tylor Megill (4-2, 4.02 ERA) on the mound for the Mets.

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