ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Friday night was a homecoming for Pete Alonso, his first major-league game at the ballpark of his youth, Tropicana Field. He is a Tampa kid born and raised and the most prominent member of the latest generation of local boys making good in The Show. His family was there, and so were countless friends, natives mixed in among a heavily pro-Mets crowd.
But it was a different Florida man who provided the final thrill. Brett Phillips — a friend and travel-ball teammate of Alonso — lined a walk-off single to rightfield against lefthander Aaron Loup in the ninth inning, sending the Mets to a 3-2 loss to the Rays.
Alonso scrambled back to first base, looking for a throw from Michael Conforto for a potential inning-ending forceout. It never came. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Mets (18-14).
As he walked across the field to the Mets’ dugout, Alonso, who struck out four times, stole a glance at Phillips, who was getting mobbed by teammates in shallow centerfield. He had his arms spread like wings in a reenactment of his World Series celebration last October.
"He’s just an energizer bunny," Alonso said before the game. "He’s a great guy, awesome human being. The coolest thing is that he’s the same. I don’t think of him as a guy. He’s the same kid I grew up with. So he’s a really special person."
Loup’s oops ended a brief but bad night for the Mets’ bullpen, which entered the game with a 2.99 ERA, fifth best in baseball.
In the eighth, Trevor May allowed a tying two-out double by Manuel Margot that drove in a runner inherited from starter David Peterson. In the ninth, Miguel Castro loaded the bases with one out. Loup came in and struck out Joey Wendle before leaving a first-pitch cutter over the plate to Phillips, historically a terrible batter against lefthanders.
"These things happen," manager Luis Rojas said of the relievers. "We’re not going to look at this as a big failure. We just didn’t win this time."
The late excitement came after an unlikely pitchers’ duel between Peterson (7 1⁄3 innings, two runs) and Rays righthander Tyler Glasnow (eight innings, two runs). Peterson lowered his ERA to 4.86, Glasnow to 2.35.
Glasnow was perfect through 4 2⁄3 innings before Kevin Pillar beat out a grounder to shortstop for an infield single and Jonathan Villar hit a two-run homer to rightfield. Glasnow finished with 10 strikeouts and one walk.
Peterson was about as good. He teetered in the second inning — walking consecutive batters near the bottom of the order to load the bases — but settled in to retire 17 consecutive batters. He struck out nine and walked two.
"I put my own back against the wall and had to find my way out," Peterson said.
His problems returned suddenly in the eighth. Mike Zunino homered to leftfield, ending the shutout bid and retired batters streak. Kevin Padlo followed with a double to right-center, his first hit in a half-dozen major-league games. May entered one batter later, Rojas having decided ahead of time that Peterson would face three batters that inning.
Alonso, meanwhile, had a rough night at the plate. The scheduling circumstances were particularly fortunate for the Alonso family, including Alonso’s dad, Peter Alonso, who had a birthday Friday.
"I already got him a good gift. I just saw him a couple minutes ago," the younger Alonso said Friday afternoon. "Win or lose, or if I go 4-for-4 with four homers, it’s not about performing on the field. It’s spending quality time with family and just being there and actually physically being able to be with my family and to be able to celebrate his birthday.
"It doesn’t happen often in the baseball schedule. And it’s truly a blessing from the baseball gods."
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