|Ronnie Mauricio connecting on a double in the third inning. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets made a much-anticipated move as the calendar turned to September and rosters can expand, as they called up their No. 4 prospect, Ronnie Mauricio.
The 22-year-old Mauricio, who was in the ninth-spot in the lineup in Friday night's game against the Mariners, hit .292 with 23 home runs and 71 RBI, with 24 stolen bases, a .346 on-base percentage, a .506 slugging percentage, and an .852 OPS in 116 games at Triple-A Syracuse this season.
Mets Manager Buck Showalter, in his pregame press conference Friday, was asked about what Mauricio’s position in the field will be, and he said, “Ronnie’s going to play second base tonight; we’ll see what tomorrow brings, what’s on the best interest of the club, the organization, and Ron, so take it kind of day-by-day. He’s had experience at, what, four (positions) this year, so all four of those are on the table depending on what best fits. You know, there’s a certain part of this, too, where you’ve got to be fair to the people that are competing against Seattle, you know, but also going to do what’s best for the Mets, and (General Manager) Billy (Eppler) and I talk every day about a lot of things, but you know, I’m sure this will be one of them.”
On if they will have Mauricio play one position consistently, Showalter said, “I think it’s going to be a day-by-day thing; no one can say for sure if and where he might be, you know, down the road. He’s just making one of the biggest jumps in sports to the level of pitching he’s getting ready to face against the best pitching staff, probably, top to bottom in baseball the next three days.
“I’m sure he’s been energized by it, and will see if it levels out a bit. We saw that with Brett (Baty) and Francisco (Alvarez), (Mark) Vientos. You know, as soon as the clamor dies down, you get an idea of what you might have. The biggest thing I’m looking for is their ability to defend, whether it’s Mark, whether whether it’s Brett, whether it’s Mo, whether it’s Alvarez. That’s what’s going to keep them up here. They’re all going to have their ups and downs offensively; pitching’s too good. Can you defend while we’re waiting for you to figure out the offensive side of it? That’s the difference…It’s a big deal up here, can’t give extra outs.”
The Mets also recalled third baseman Brett Baty, who was sent down on August 7, and he went 1-for-3 with two strikeouts. Baty is hitting .217 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in 87 games this season.
Mauricio's first at-bat came leading off the bottom of the third against Seattle starting pitcher Logan Gilbert, and he crushed one to right field that skipped by Teoscar Hernandez for a double. As he stood at second base, he soaked in the moment and saluted his teammates in the dugout.
|Ronnie Mauricio salutes his teammates at second base after his double as Seattle gets the ball back in from deep right field. Photo by Jason Schott.|
Gilbert responded by striking out Mauricio on three pitches in his next at-bat in the fifth inning.
In the seventh, with the game tied at 1 and Baty having just reached on a two-out single, Mauricio laced a single to right field, giving him a 2-for-3 night in his debut.
|Ronny Mauricio turning on one for a single in the seventh inning, with Brett Baty running from first to second. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The game was a pitcher's duel between Mets starter Kodai Senga and Gilbert.
After Senga faced the minimum in the first three frames, J.P. Crawford crushed one to right field for a solo shot.
The Mets' leadoff hitter responded in kind to open the sixth, as Brandon Nimmo crushed one to right field into the Mets' bullpen for a solo shot, his 20th of the season, and it was tied at 1.
Senga went seven innings, as he allowed just that one run on five hits and two walks, with 12 strikeouts, the fourth time he has struck out at least 10 this season. He got the no-decision, so his record remained 10-7, but his ERA (earned run average) was lowered to 3.08.
Gilbert nearly matched him, as he went 6 2/3 innings, pulled after Mauricio's single with two outs in the seventh. He allowed just one run on seven hits and no walks, with nine strikeouts.
Gabe Speier relieved Gilbert with two on and two out for Nimmo, and he got him to ground into a force-out to end the inning.
The game would be decided in the bullpens, as Phil Bickford pitched a scoreless top of the eighth, and Seattle turned to Andres Munoz for the bottom half of the frame.
Francisco Lindor opened the it with a single, then stole second base and took third on a wild pitch. He would come in to score on a two-out single from Daniel Vogelbach that made it 2-1 Mets.
Drew Smith came on for the Mets in the ninth, and he walked Cal Raleigh to open the frame before picking off pinch-runner Jose Caballero at first base. He then worked around a Dominic Canzone single by striking out Ty France to end it and earn his third save of the season.
The Mets improved to 62-73, and they are now 3-4 on this homestand against the American League West, as they dropped two of three each to the Angels and Texas Rangers to open it. Seattle fell to 76-58, and they remain tied with the Houston Astros (77-59) at the top of the division, while Texas (75-59) is a game off the pace.
NO MORE CROWDED DUGUOTS: Unlike years past, when rosters could expand to 40 players and dugouts in September looked like a crowded subway car, the Mets could expand their roster from 26 players to 28.
On Wednesday, in his pregame press conference, Showalter spoke of this change, and said, “Every year, it’s different. This year, I wish maybe a couple more, but I really believe years ago, I think it was the last day of the season, really the series, when we eliminated Boston in Baltimore, and I remember going up the runway in my office after that was over, I actually felt bad that - if we didn’t have the roster at 39 at that point, we couldn’t have competed with them. I didn’t think it was fair to the Red Sox, in fact, I think Terry Francona would probably still be manager of the Red Sox if rosters weren’t at 38.
“I thought it was very unfair, wasn’t a reflection of the season, and I like this a lot better. I think this is more fair to the teams that are better than other teams, and have been all year, to not have something that’s not as good brought on equal or make them a lot more competitive because, and also the three-hitter rule. I mean, I had, like, six left-handed pitchers and we just went right through their lineup. I think that game took 4 1/2 hours, but even as I was doing it, I thought, ‘this is crazy, because I shouldn’t be able to do this.’ We weren’t as good as them, but we were when we were at 38 (players) once we got a lead.”
The game Showalter was referring to was the final game of the 2011 season, when his Orioles beat the Red Sox, 4-3, on a walk-off hit by Robert Andino, as Baltimore scored two runs in the ninth off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon. That Boston loss, coupled with an 8-7 win by the Tampa Bay Rays over the Yankees on a 12th-inning walk-off home run by Evan Longoria, cost them a Wild Card spot. The Red Sox would fire Francona after the season, as Buck alluded to in his comments. They brought in Bobby Valentine for the 2012 season, his lone year at the helm as they stumbled to a 69-93 record before making John Farrell, who was the pitching coach for their 2007 championship team, the Manager for in 2013, and they won their third World Series title in ten seasons.