Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Mets Walk It Off To Earn Split Of Subway Series On Night That Began With A “Marquee Matchup”

Justin Verlander pitching to Anthony Rizzo in the second inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets earned a split of the two-game Subway Series at Citi Field on Wednesday night, as they came back from 3-1 down to beat the Yankees, 4-3, in 10 innings.

The night began with a pitching matchup that one dreams about, as Gerrit Cole of the Yankees faced off against Justin Verlander. These are two of the best pitchers of their era, and they were teammates with the Houston Astros on their American League championship team in 2019.

Gerrit Cole pitching to Jeff McNeil in the fourth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

When Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked about it, he playfully replied, “What do you think of the pitching matchup?" 

Then, after a good laugh, Boone continued, “I think it’s great. Look, Mets and Yankees, starting to feel like summer, even though it’s raining out (batting practice was moved inside). Yeah, it’s Hall of Famer, guy in the middle of a Hall of Fame career, and Gerrit, like you said, ex-teammates, that’s a marquee matchup, and one you look forward to going, going to watch those guys go at it.”

Verlander came out firing, as he got Jake Bauers out on a fly ball along the left field line, and then struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson, both swinging, and Donaldson's bat went flying down the third base line.

Justin Verlander throwing the pitch that struck out Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Cole returned the favor in the bottom of the first, as he struck out Brandon Nimmo, then got Starling Marte to ground out before striking out Jeff McNeil.

The first hit of the game came off the bat of the Yankees' Billy McKinney to lead off the third inning, as he hit one to deep right in front of the bullpen. McKinney moved to third on a grounder to short by Jose Trevino, then Anthony Volpe hit a shallow flyball to center field, and Bauers poppe out to second to end the threat.

Cole retired the first 12 Mets batters he faced, while notching five strikeouts. 

Francisco Lindor opened the fifth with a blast to right-center field that went off the fence for a double, and he would come in to score on a two-out double by Tommy Pham to deep right that Bauers appeared to lose track of.

In the sixth, Trevino led off with a double down the left-field line, and then he would take third on a fly ball to right from Volpe, and score on a single by Bauers to tie it at 1.

The Mets opened the bottom of the sixth with singles from Mark Vientos and Nimmo, but Cole responded by striking out Marte, got McNeil to fly out to center field, and then got Lindor to pop out to third base.

Both aces would exit after the sixth, and their final lines were as follows:

Cole: 6 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 run (earned), 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Verlander: 6 IP, 3 hits, 1 run (earned), 0 walks, 6 strikeouts.

The stat that stands out for both is 0 walks.

Boone said of Cole's performance, "I thought Gerrit was really good again. It was really fastball, slider; I thought both pitches were really good for him to both righties and lefties, didn't really use his curveball, changeup much at all tonight, so it was a fastball, slider. I thought, again, he had a really good fastball, but the slider I thought was really good as well."

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of Verlander's start, "It's was obvious that Cole was carrying good stuff tonight, like he normally does, and Justin gave us a chance - I think that's one of the keys to the game. When you're facing a good pitcher on top of his game, the key to staying and engaged and winning those games is how well your starting pitcher does. Coming off an outing that was unlike him, it was good to see."

Boone said of Verlander, "I thought he was tough. He goes 1-2-3 in the first there, you know, make him throw a lot of pitches, so we made him work a little bit, but overall, I thought he was unpredictable. I thought his stuff was good, you know, his fastball  at the top and then that slider and curveball off of it. You know, it was the Justin Verlander I'm used to seeing, I thought he was really good tonight, too.

Jeff Brigham entered for the Mets in the seventh, and he walked Donaldson opened the inning with a walk before he hit Rizzo with a pitch.

DJ LeMahieu struck out looking, and then the inning went haywire for the Mets.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded one to shortstop, and Rizzo was out at second base, but McNeil then threw it away at first base trying to complete the double play.

Donaldson raced in to score to make it 2-1 Yankees, while Kiner-Falefa was safe at first. 

That was all for Brigham, and in came left-hander Brooks Raley for the lefty McKinney.

Kiner-Falefa immediately stole second base, and when Alvarez threw down, it went into center field, allowing him to take third base. Then, taking advantage that Raley had his back to him, Kiner-Falefa took a massive lead off third base, and broke for the plate, stealing home to make it 3-1 Yankees.

"Loved it, loved it!" was what Boone said about it afterwards. "Gutsy play, knew he was able to get off there quite a bit, and then took advantage of it, great play by him."

Jimmy Cordero entered for the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh, and Alvarez greeted him with a single, and Pham then got a one-out single. After Eduardo Escobar grounded into a force out, Vientos walked to load the bases.

Rob Marinaccio then came out of the Yankees bullpen to face Nimmo, and he hit him with a pitch to force in a run, as Alvarez scored.

Marte then singled to left field to bring home Escobar to tie the game at 3. McKinney threw to the plate, which kept Vientos at third base. Trevino noticed that Nimmo took a big turn around second base, and he fired down to retire him for the final out of the eventual seventh inning.

Adam Ottavino entered for the Mets in the eighth to face his old team, and Volpe started the inning with a leadoff double. The Brooklyn native then struck out Bauers, got Stanton to ground out to shortstop, and then Donaldson flew out to left field for the third out.

After Tommy Kahnle came on for the Yankees in the bottom of the eighth and retired the Mets in order, the Bronx Bombers had another golden opportunity against another old friend, David Robertson, in the ninth.

After Rizzo opened the inning with a strikeout, LeMahieu laced a double to left field. Gleyber Torres was then sent up to pinch-hit for Kiner-Falefa, and he walked. McKinney then grounded out to first, and Willie Calhoun entered as a pinch-hitter for Trevino, and he grounded to third for the final out.

Albert Abreu entered for the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth, and he retired the Mets in order before Dominic Leone kept the Yankees off the board in the top of the tenth. With the "ghost runner" at second, Leone got the first two out before he intentionally walked Stanton, and he got Donaldson to ground into a force out.

With Escobar serving as the "ghost runner" to start the bottom of the 10th, Abreu struck out Vientos. The Yankees then turned to left-hander Nick Ramirez to face Nimmo, and he crushed off the fence in right field to bring in Escobar with the winning run to give the Mets the 4-3 victory.

Leone got his first win as a Met (his record is 1-2 with a 4.24 ERA), and Abreu took the loss for the Yankees, and his record is now 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA. 

To give Abreu the loss is a weird quirk of the "ghost runner" rule as, somehow, Escobar was his responsibility, while Abreu retired the lone batter he faced, and Ramirez gave up the game-winning hit. Talk about a "hard-luck loss."

This was a huge win for the Mets, as they improved to 32-36, and it was just their second win in their last 11 games.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of the importance of this win, "It was a good game before an off day. Guys feel good about things, been battling, close games like that, to push through was big. Our bullpen, obviously, they have a really good bullpen, and our guys matched them for the most part, and of course, be forgotten, not by all, was how well Justin pitched to give us a chance. I thought he, it was obvious that Cole was carrying good stuff tonight, like he normally does, and Justin gave us a chance - I think that's one of the keys to the game. When you're facing a good pitcher on top of his game, the key to staying and engaged and winning those games is how well your starting pitcher does. Coming off an outing that was unlike him, it was good to see."

Boone said of the tough loss for the Yankees, who fell to 39-30 and are now 5-5 in their last 10, "I mean, another really competitive game, and that's what we've kind of found ourselves here in the last, you know, week, ten days. Did a lot of things well, just couldn't push through there in the end."

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