Some nights during an unlikely run to meaningful August baseball — so elusive so frequently for the Mets this century — are marked by big moments from the best players. It might feel like magic or fate, but it often is just the stars of a team doing what they know how to do, what is expected.
And other nights, the hero comes from out of nowhere.
Saturday was one of those other nights. The Mets beat the Nationals, 4-3, behind a two-run rally in the eighth inning: a tying homer by Luis Guillorme, the first long ball of his career, and a go-ahead sacrifice fly by J.D. Davis, whose emergence as a potent everyday bat has been a key for the Mets this season.
The updated streaks for the Mets (61-56): eight wins in a row, 15 wins in 16 games and 21 wins in 27 games since the All-Star break. They are a half-game out of both National League wild-card spots, held at the end of play Saturday by the Nationals (61-55) and the Brewers (62-56).
“It’s unbelievable. We keep surprising ourselves,” Davis said. “We have all the confidence in the world right now with us, but some things that we’re doing, we’re surprising ourselves.”
Added Guillorme: “The way the games have been, it doesn’t matter if we’re down one or five. We know somebody is going to pick it up.”
This one came in front of a sellout crowd of 43,875, the second-largest of the year at Citi Field behind the home opener.
After Juan Soto’s second homer of the game, a two-out solo shot off Seth Lugo in the top of the eighth, the Mets trailed the Nationals 3-2. Fernando Rodney, among Washington’s in-season acquisitions as it tries to patch together a bullpen that still ranks as the worst in the league, then allowed the pinch-hit homer by Guillorme.
It’s worth noting the improbability of Guillorme’s shot. Having spent the past two seasons bouncing between Triple-A and the majors, he was a career .192 hitter with a .222 slugging percentage in The Show, always known more for his glove than his bat. The Mets called him up Monday — when Robinson Cano got hurt, after this winning streak already had started — and kept him Friday, deciding to designate Adeiny Hechavarria for assignment instead of optioning Guillorme to the minors. Team decision-makers said it was because they wanted to have the lefthanded hitter — who had little track record of success — available off the bench.
So there Guillorme was, replacing Juan Lagares with the Mets suddenly trailing by one, with zero major-league homers to his name. He was just trying to reach first base, he said. He worked the count full and turned on a fastball over the heart of the plate, sending it into the stands in right.
“It’s always one of the spots you want to be in, help the team go ahead or tie the game late in the game,” Guillorme said. “It was really fun.”
Joe Panik reached on an error and Jeff McNeil singled before the Nationals replaced Rodney with Daniel Hudson, who intentionally walked Pete Alonso to face Davis with the bases loaded. Davis' flyout to right was deep enough to drive in Panik with the go-ahead run.
“He just wanted to touch the ball and it got out far enough where we could score a run,” manager Mickey Callaway said.
In the ninth, Callaway passed over closer Edwin Diaz for the save situation in favor of Lugo for a second inning. Callaway said the Mets have “all the confidence in the world” in Diaz (5.32 ERA), but he wasn’t sure if Lugo would be available Sunday, so he figured he might as well get another inning from him Saturday. He said it was an example of needing to stay open-minded about late-inning roles, which he alluded to last weekend when he declined to call Diaz his hard-and-fast closer.
Lugo retired the side in order to end a wild seesaw game that was much like Friday’s: multiple Nationals leads, multiple Mets comebacks via homers, an eventual one-run Mets lead.
Soto’s homer in the eighth was the first run allowed by Lugo since June 29 and snapped a string of 26 consecutive batters retired by the righthander, matching a franchise record.
Noah Syndergaard (seven innings, two runs) and Nationals lefthander Patrick Corbin (six innings, two runs) exchanged fleeting lapses in effectiveness.
Syndergaard’s came first. Soto, 20, whose early career is in line with the likes of Mickey Mantle and Alex Rodriguez, put the Nationals on top with a two-run homer in the first, but Syndergaard lasted at least seven innings for a sixth straight start, extending his career-best streak.
Corbin opened the game by getting 11 of 12 batters out, but Davis and Wilson Ramos struck for back-to-back homers to tie the score in the fourth.
That led to a battle of the bullpens.
“It doesn’t matter who is going to be the hero,” Syndergaard said. “Anybody in the clubhouse has the [ability] to be the hero. Tonight, it was G.”