Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario’s lack of communication — and ensuing collision — handed the Giants a 2-1, 13-inning win over the Mets on Monday night at Citi Field.
The game-deciding play came in the top of the 13th, as Brandon Crawford lifted what should have been an inning-ending pop-up to shallow leftfield. Smith, a first baseman who has been learning the outfield, charged hard and called for the ball late. He ran into Rosario, who was trying to wave him off. Neither caught the ball, which popped into and out of Rosario’s glove. Andrew McCutchen scored and Smith was charged with an error.
“On that play, you’re playing deep because it’s late in the game and it’s a high fly ball and it’s pretty shallow and you’re running in hard,” Smith said. “It’s hard to really take your eyes off of it. You don’t really know where the infielder is. That’s pretty much what happened.”
Said Mickey Callaway, “That’s an easy play. It’s a camped shortstop, and we missed the ball.”
Rosario said through an interpreter: “[Smith] has the ball in front of him. I’m running backwards. He has the more choice and better view of the ball.”
Smith took the blame for calling the ball late. “It [stinks], especially the way this year has been going,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about it now but turn the page.”
It didn’t change much for the Mets (54-70), aside from adding another embarrassing moment to the 2018 list. But it was unfortunate timing for Smith, who rejoined the team Sunday in what he called a “weird” season, including being thrust into the outfield, receiving inconsistent playing time in the majors and playing poorly when given chances in the majors and minors.
Callaway acknowledged that this, along with everything else weighing on Smith, is a concern. But he put the onus on Smith to get over it.
“You always worry about that with your players, but the bottom line is you have to get it done, whether it worries you or not,” Callaway said. “We have resources, you have your coaches, you have other things [including a mental-skills coach] that can help you out. We’re always willing to help, but the bottom line is you have to get the job done.”
In the bottom of the 13th, pitcher Jason Vargas pinch hit for reliever Tyler Bashlor and flied out to centerfield to end it.
Another strong outing for Zack Wheeler, one of his best in a months-long series of very good ones, was wasted. He allowed one run in seven innings and fanned 10, his first double-digit strikeout game in four years and five days. But he received minimal run support (Wilmer Flores’ RBI double in the first) and lost the lead in the seventh.
San Francisco’s rally began with Crawford’s walk, the only one of Wheeler’s night, and a bloop single, struck poorly but perfectly by Brandon Belt over Rosario onto the outfield grass. After Evan Longoria lined out to left, moving Crawford to within 90 feet of tying the score, Wheeler ramped his fastball up to 97.7 mph to strike out Steven Duggar swinging. But Alen Hanson dinked an RBI double to left.
The blooper, hit a little harder, a little taller and a little farther than Belt’s, had only a 9-percent chance of being a hit, according to MLB’s batted-ball data. It landed fair, one step beyond the reach of Rosario and three steps from leftfielder Jack Reinheimer (also usually an infielder).
Wheeler — who has a 1.93 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in his past seven starts and lowered his ERA to 3.63 — suggested that the ball would have been an out if his fielders had been in their usual spots. Rosario, who earlier dropped a routine pop-up in foul territory, was shaded up the middle on the play.
“Somebody should’ve been there,” Wheeler said, “if they were playing normal position[ing]. It’s not on them, but yeah. You get what you want, you get soft contact, and it costs you a run. You really don’t worry about that, because in your head it’s supposed to be an out and you just move on.”
Callaway likened Wheeler’s year to the 2014 season of Carlos Carrasco, one of Callaway’s success stories as the Indians’ pitching coach. Carrasco spent much of that season in the Cleveland bullpen but returned to the rotation in August and — having learned how to trust himself to attack hitters — dominated. In each of the four seasons since, Carrasco has had ERAs in the mid-3.00s.
When it comes to the improved version of Wheeler, Callaway has spoken frequently of that mental growth — paired with the obvious physical ability — that has allowed him to take a major step forward. Just like Carrasco.
“They both had to make the same exact adjustment in attacking hitters the right way and being fearless and not giving in and kind of owning the mound,” Callaway said. “That’s probably the best comparison there is between two people in the major leagues. They both can be dominant. We’ve seen them both be dominant at times.
“They’re exactly the same. Everything about them, their development, who they are as a pitcher. They both have probably the best stuff on each of their staffs.
“It’s maybe a good person for Zack to look at and know, hey, if I stick with these adjustments, I can be a really, really top-of-the-line consistent pitcher moving forward for years to come.”