PHILADELPHIA — Moments after an errant 96-mph fastball jolted the Mets to life, Jay Bruce crushed a two-run homer in the eighth inning Monday night, the difference in a 4-3 win over the Phillies.
It was Bruce’s second homer of the game and fourth in an opening week in which he has carried an otherwise stagnant lineup. It came after Phillies reliever Edubray Ramos whizzed a fastball behind the head of Asdrubal Cabrera.
The two have history. Last September, Ramos served up a walk-off homer in the 11th inning to Cabrera, whose towering blast was rivaled only by his mammoth bat flip. It was a reflection of the stakes of that game, with the Mets desperately trying to secure a wild-card spot.
“What he did today, that’s bad,” said Cabrera, who insisted that he did not realize until later that Ramos gave up last year’s walk-off shot. “If you want to hit somebody, you’ve got to make sure to throw the ball down, not to the head.”
Ramos told reporters after the game that the pitch “got away from me” but acknowledged being “a little” upset at last September’s bat flip.
Cabrera watched the fastball, then immediately pointed toward Ramos, who held out his arms as if to shrug. Catcher Cameron Rupp jumped in front of Cabrera, who shouted to the mound: “What the hell are you doing?”
Plate umpire Allan Porter issued warnings. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin took exception and was ejected.
Cabrera walked, Yoenis Cespedes struck out and Ramos was replaced by lefty Joely Rod riguez, summoned to neutralize Bruce, who is hitting .304 through his first seven games.
“I want to be a good player,” said Bruce, whose two-run shot sailed toward his face, which was displayed on the video board above the rightfield fence. “I want to help this team win.”
Winning did not come easy for the Mets, who fell behind 2-0 before scrambling to claim the lead and hold off the Phillies.
Addison Reed, filling in for the suspended Jeurys Familia, nailed down his second save in as many days. He survived a leadoff homer in the ninth by Brock Stassi that cut the lead to one.
Jacob deGrom allowed two runs and threw 31 pitches in the first, but as he’s done in the past, he settled in and did not allow another run in his six innings.
“Early on,” he said, “I didn’t know where anything was going.”
Later, the Mets stunted a Phillies rally. With two on and two outs in the seventh in a 2-2 game, Travis d’Arnaud kept a 55-footer from Jerry Blevins from reaching the backstop. When d’Arnaud threw to second, Cabrera made a sprawling stop of his errant throw, then had the presence of mind to catch Howie Kendrick breaking from first.
That awkward play set the stage for the eighth. Terry Collins has been searching for ways to revive a lineup that has stumbled out of the gate. Cespedes and Neil Walker are hitting .154. Jose Reyes went 0-for-4 and is hitting .037. Said Collins, “I got the FBI looking for the real Jose Reyes.”
He resolved to use the cleanup spot as a place to play the hot hand. Bruce’s first homer — a solo shot in the fourth — cut the Mets’ deficit to 2-1. Bruce started the tying rally in the seventh by drawing a leadoff walk and scored on Walker’s sacrifice fly.
But Bruce’s biggest swing came in the eighth, when his two-run homer cemented a victory that was coated in drama.
“I haven’t seen him like this,” Collins said. “I know it’s there . . . I’m glad it’s right now because we’re not swinging the bats as a cumulative team.”
Jay Bruce already has half as many home runs that he had last year with the Mets.
2016: 50 Games 8 HRs
2017: 7 Games 4 HRs