In baseball’s long history, the most memorable of seasons are dotted with the most improbable of moments, the kind when the right player is in the right spot at the right time, helping to create another in a long series of wins — the kind that can inspire team-of-destiny talk, even if July is far too early for that.
The Mets had another one of those moments Wednesday.
In splitting a doubleheader with the Brewers — winning the opener, 4-3, and losing the nightcap, 5-0 — the Mets got an eighth-inning, walk-off, two-run single from Jeff McNeil to take the first game. And that wasn’t even the most dramatic development.
The Mets (45-38) trailed the Brewers (52-36) by one in the seventh, the final inning of regulation in twin-bill games, when Josh Hader entered, looking for his 21st save in 21 chances. Mets manager Luis Rojas called the Milwaukee All-Star "maybe the most dominant closer in the game right now." They started to empty their bench with pinch hitters — the guys who a few weeks ago were starring but now, with the regulars back from the injured list, are relegated to part-time status.
Jose Peraza, a light-hitting backup infielder whose roster spot is not guaranteed upon the return of J.D. Davis next week, blasted a tying home run.
It was Hader’s first blown save and first long ball allowed all season.
"I spend the whole game," Peraza said, "preparing for a moment like that."
That included preparing for the lefthanded Hader specifically. Peraza had seen him before, during his Cincinnati days, before signing a minor-league contract with the Mets last offseason, and had gotten beat by Hader’s mid-to-upper-90s fastball. So when he saw Kevin Pillar, another pinch hitter, get ahead 2-and-0 but strike out on three consecutive heaters, Peraza stepped to the plate looking for exactly that.
Hader left a first-pitch fastball over the plate — a bit high, maybe, but in the strike zone. Peraza pulled it over the wall in left-center. Tie game. He slapped his chest as he rounded second.
"This team is never out of it," McNeil said. "We’re always a swing away."
"Every game that we win," Rojas said, "just proves that we are a good team."
In the eighth, Edwin Diaz had problems, forcing in a run by walking two batters and hitting another, all with two outs. But McNeil made up for it against Brent Suter. He grounded a hard single to center, scoring Francisco Lindor (automatic runner on second) and Dominic Smith (hit by pitch).
"Everybody puts together good at-bats, no matter what the previous outcome was," Jacob deGrom said. "It’s been fun to be a part of."
All that overshadowed a matchup of two of the best pitchers in the National League: deGrom (seven innings, two runs) and Corbin Burnes (5 2/3 innings, one run).
DeGrom gave up solo homers to Luis Urias to lead off the game and Jace Peterson in the fifth inning. In between, he retired 13 consecutive batters. He also had 10 strikeouts, including the 1,500th of his career.
After yielding three long balls in 13 starts, he has matched that total in his past two games.
"You have to give kudos to those hitters, because that’s the best pitcher in the world," Rojas said. "It’s surprising."
DeGrom’s ERA rose all the way to 1.08, the first time this year it was above 1.00 at the end of his outing. He has allowed multiple earned runs in three starts in a row after not doing so in any of his first dozen.
In the second game, Robert Stock, making his Mets debut, lasted four innings and allowed two runs (on Manny Pina’s homer).
Down three in the sixth, the Mets had a chance when Brad Boxberger walked the bases loaded with no outs. But Lindor, Smith and Pete Alonso struck out.
"There’s nothing to say about our hitters," Rojas said. "The guy came back and beat them. That’s it."
Despite missing the opportunity to sweep, the Mets still won the series against the NL Central-leading Brewers, a possible NLDS opponent come October. Their victories came in games started by Milwaukee’s top pitchers, Brandon Woodruff and Burnes.
The Mets are 10-13 the past three weeks. That stretch includes three walk-off wins.
"This confidence was built in spring training," Rojas said. "It’s just been confirmed throughout this season with . . . the different heroes that we’ve had."
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