It started innocently enough -- with a hit batsman, to be precise.
That certainly wasn't the most exciting plate appearance in the Mets' 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.
But with Zack Greinke on the mound for the Dodgers, any baserunner was significant -- not to mention an accomplishment.
Greinke entered the game in the midst of a long scoreless-innings streak that he extended to 452/3 innings with two shutout innings.
Then Kirk Nieuwenhuis was plunked to lead off the bottom of the third.
Dodgers centerfielder Joc Pederson bobbled Kevin Plawecki's single, allowing Nieuwenhuis to reach third, 90 feet away from ending Greinke's streak.
That set the stage for Mets starter Jacob deGrom, an unlikely candidate to halt the scoreless streak. (Or, given the general success at the plate by Mets pitchers this year, perhaps not.)
DeGrom hit a soft tapper to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who fired home in an attempt to nail Nieuwenhuis, keep the game scoreless and continue Greinke's streak.
"I was kind of going on contact a little bit," Nieuwenhuis said. "But once [deGrom] chopped it in there, I thought it was a good spot. I thought I could make it. It wasn't super- hard-hit, but I thought I could get in there, and I did."
Barely. Gonzalez's throw was slightly high and Nieuwenhuis just dodged Yasmani Grandal's tag, scoring the first run off Greinke since San Diego outfielder Justin Upton homered against him on June 13.
"It was a little bit closer than I thought it was going to be," Nieuwenhuis said of the tag. "But I knew I was safe."
The run ended Greinke's quest to catch former Dodger Orel Hershiser's major-league record streak of 59 scoreless innings in 1988. Another former Dodger, Don Drysdale, is second with 58 in 1968. Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson is third with 47 in 1968.
Nieuwenhuis said everyone was aware of Greinke's streak because "we have TVs'' but that it didn't change the Mets' game plan.
A hit batsman played a role in the Mets' second run, too. With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, Greinke hit Michael Conforto to make it 2-0.
Greinke rebounded nicely from the disappointment of lost history, allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out three. His 1.37 ERA is tops in the majors, ahead of deGrom, who is second at 2.05.
Facing Greinke's changeup was particularly daunting, Nieuwenhuis said.
"It says changeup on the board, but it's really like a splitter or a splitter that acts like a two-seamer," he said. "Everything comes out of his hand hard. He's got that good arm action and a lot of late movement."
Scoring the run marked the second big moment at Citi Field for Niuwenhuis this month. He hit his only three home runs of the season in the first five innings of a victory over the Diamondbacks on July 12, becoming the only player in Mets history to hit three homers in a home game.
"It's been fun, for sure," he said of the July moments. "Hopefully, there's more of those to come."
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