PHILADELPHIA — Even by the Mets’ bizarre standards, their 8-7 win over the Phillies on Sunday night was a wild one.
Jeurys Familia recorded his first save since 2018, striking out Bryce Harper, the potential winning run, to end it. Edwin Diaz nearly blew a four-run lead and left the game with a tight back. The Phillies, down to their final out, thought Rhys Hoskins had tied it with a three-run home run off Diaz, but the umpires, upon review, ruled it a double that bounced off the top railing of the rightfield wall.
And that was just the ninth inning.
Before that, the Mets (11-11) had their biggest inning of the season, a six-run eighth. They scored three against Jose Alvarado, who was eligible to pitch because hours earlier, he appealed a three-game suspension from MLB, his punishment for inciting a benches-clearing episode on Friday. Jonathan Villar tied it by scoring on a play that everybody else thought was over, inspiring teammates to ask if he had lost his mind.
Didi Gregorius hit a three-run homer off Miguel Castro to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead in the sixth, snapping the Mets bullpen’s 18-inning scoreless streak. Francisco Lindor flied out with the bases loaded, a continuation of his early struggles. Dominic Smith got thrown out at the plate, a bang-bang sequence punctuated by J.T. Realmuto’s mitt meeting Smith’s face.
Choose your adjective: dramatic, thrilling, unhinged, frantic, exhausting. They all apply.
"I don’t know if that’s a season-defining game," said Pete Alonso, whose three-run double in the eighth stood as the difference, "but it’s definitely a momentum-shifter."
Kevin Pillar led off the eighth with a homer off Brandon Kintzler, the first of three relievers used by the Phillies (13-15) in the inning. That cut the Mets’ deficit to 4-3.
Villar managed an infield single and Jose Peraza, in his third call-up to the major-league team, stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the year. That set the stage for Villar’s bold move — the moment manager Luis Rojas said he will remember most from this game.
Peraza shot a low line drive to first base that deflected off Hoskins’ glove into shallow rightfield. Hoskins chased it down as Villar took a normal route from first to third. As Rojas looked away from the field to prepare for the next at-bat, Hoskins softly tossed the ball to second baseman Nick Maton — and Villar took off for home.
In the dugout, Alonso thought, "You better be safe." Villar slid in headfirst without a throw, got to his feet, screamed and slapped his hands, producing a cloud of dirt.
"To be honest, I was looking down, because the play ended with first-and-third," Rojas said. "I looked down and I heard a noise and I looked up and all of a sudden he’s going headfirst into home plate. This is what good baserunners do."
Villar added: "One of the guys, he told me, are you crazy? I say, I don’t care. I’m not scared to play baseball."
Villar, who turned 30 on Sunday, has a reputation as being daring, sometimes negligent. With runners at the corners and nobody out in a tie game in the sixth, he swung at and missed three consecutive pitches well out of the strike zone.
"I call him the caballo loco," Alonso said. "That means crazy horse. He’s reckless, but in a good way when he runs the bases."
The starters, Mets lefthander David Peterson (five innings, one run) and Phillies righthander Zach Eflin (six innings, two runs), became footnotes. Peterson’s outing looked like a potential disaster in the first, when pitching coach Jeremy Hefner visited the mound three batters in, but he settled down.
These heartbeat-quickening Mets, tied for first in the NL East, have a mere 140 games to go.
"We’re a really tough team," Alonso said. "Win or lose, we’re not going to make it easy."
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