Two-thirds of the Mets’ season is over. Have they finally found the winning formula?
Seth Lugo as a starter. Andres Gimenez at shortstop. Robinson Chirinos behind the plate.
In Game 40 of a 60-game season, the Mets beat the Phillies on Saturday night at Citi Field, 5-1.
Lugo, in his third start of the season, allowed one run in five innings to become the first Mets starter to earn a victory since David Peterson beat the Nationals on Aug. 13 — a span of 20 games.
Gimenez (2-for-2, walk, sacrifice fly, stolen base) drove in two runs and scored twice and Chirinos had an RBI double in their first day as co-starters at their positions.
The Mets, who began the day two games out of the NL’s final wild-card spot, improved to 18-22.
Is this the start of their run?
“If we can do what we did tonight,” Lugo said. “We were playing hard, we were taking bags, picking each other up. I think we played all-around good baseball tonight. I think it was a good team win. The whole team contributed today and it showed.”
Lugo, in his longest start of 2020 (81 pitches), gave up a solo home run to Rhys Hoskins, the second batter of the game. Lugo threw scoreless ball for the next 4 2/3 innings. Overall, he allowed four hits, walked two and tied a career high with eight strikeouts.
Lugo’s final out came on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Bryce Harper that struck him on the pitching hand and caromed to Todd Frazier for a 1-5-3 out. Lugo gave a thumb’s up on his way off the field, but the Mets had him take an X-ray anyway, which Lugo said was negative.
“It’s fine,” Lugo said. “I’m not even concerned about it.”
The Mets tied it in the third on an RBI single by Gimenez and took a 2-1 lead later in the inning on an RBI single by Michael Conforto.
Gimenez got a gift RBI in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to second baseman Neil Walker, whom baserunner Todd Frazier astutely noticed was backpedaling to catch a pop-up into short rightfield. Harper, who should have caught the ball coming in, loafed after it, much to Walker’s obvious dismay after the run scored.
Harper was ejected after the next half-inning by first base umpire Roberto Ortiz when he argued a foul call on a ball he hit down the first-base line.
Dom Smith had an RBI groundout in the fifth and Chirinos chipped in with a run-scoring double in the sixth to make it 5-1.
Moving Lugo into the rotation is just one of the in-season tweaks that paid off for the Mets on Saturday.
The days of Wilson Ramos and Amed Rosario being everyday players appear to be over. Neither was in the lineup and both are going to have to share their positions going forward.
Manager Luis Rojas, speaking of why Gimenez started at shortstop for the second straight game after Rosario had three hits on Thursday, said: “I always stood behind saying Rosie is our primary shortstop, but that’s what we’re doing now. Just basically giving both a chance . . . right now, we’re basically splitting some time.”
And when asked why Chirinos was getting the nod over Ramos and what that means for the catching position, Rojas said: “We’ll see how it plays out. Having Robinson Chirinos here, that acquisition is definitely going to help us — I’m going to say — to have some more split time in between those two. I said the other day that Ramos was our catcher. Ramos will get his chance. Robinson will get his chance. We’ll see day-by-day how it goes.”
After the game, Rojas said: “Gimenez had an unbelievable game tonight. He played so good. Robinson Chirinos played really good, too, and he called a really good game. But still, no lineup has been written [for Sunday]. That’s something I’ll be sharing tomorrow.”