The electricity was palpable at Citi Field on Saturday night even before Rich Hill delivered the first pitch against the Reds. Newly-minted Mets star Javier Baez — the club’s big trade-deadline acquisition in a Friday deal with the Cubs — already had the place abuzz on Saturday when he took the field and set up at shortstop donning No. 23.
In the sixth inning, Baez turned up the voltage in the stadium when he unloaded on a Wade Miley cutter for a home run to leftfield that cut the Mets' deficit to 4-3. Moments later, James McCann stepped out of the batters box and Baez emerged from the dugout and exhorted the home throng as they chanted his name.
Dom Smith would push it further in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out RBI single to score Jeff McNeil from second with to tie it at 4 and force extra innings. Brandon Drury tripped all the circuit breakers in the tenth with a walk-off RBI single that scored Kevin Pillar from second base for a 5-4 victory before 26,477.
It was the Mets eighth walk-off victory of the season and snapped their losing streak at two games. They remain four games ahead of Atlanta, which moved into second place in the NL East, and 4½ game ahead of Philadelphia.
"I was really excited to see the fans chanting my name," Baez said. "That’s the biggest thing that motivated me . . . The love they showed me tonight was special."
"It was a clutch situation for Javier," manager Luis Rojas said. "He’s built for things like that, all that adrenaline . . . There’s so much energy this kid brings. It’s really exciting."
Edwin Diaz (4-4), who came on for the tenth inning, had runners on the corners with none out but escaped unscathed by getting a pair of strikeouts and an inning-ending fly out.
Drury has been swinging a hot bat since he was called up July 24. He started with Brandon Nimmo sidelined by a hamstring issue and Rojas trying to give slumping Michael Conforto a night off to clear his mind. Conforto did end up coming in to pinch hit and grounded out.
Drury is 11-for-15 at the plate since his call up. This was his sixth career walk-off hit and he explained, "in those situations I keep it simple — I use the whole field and slow the game down."
Baez's two-out homer in the sixth might have been a three-run shot to tie the score if not for a baserunning blunder by Jonathan Villar shortly before he came to bat. Villar drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Pete Alonso’s sharp single to left. But Villar got picked off by Cincinnati starter Wade Miley for the first out of the inning. McNeil flew out before Baez’s homer.
Hill, added in a July 23 trade with Tampa Bay to shore up an injury-riddled rotation, said he felt the best he has in a month despite allowing four runs on a pair of home runs during his five innings. He couldn’t hold a 1-0 lead — courtesy of a run-scoring single by Villar — in the fourth. He gave up a three-run homer to Eugenio Suarez in the fourth and a solo homer by Kyle Farmer in the fifth.
Miley allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings for the Reds. Joey Votto’s streak of games with a home run ended at seven. For the Mets, McNeil saw his 16-game hitting streak halted.
After Suarez’s home run put the Reds ahead 3-1, they had a chance to break the game open. They got two more runners into scoring position with two out and Miley hit a sinking liner to leftfield, but Smith made a sliding snow-cone catch to retire the side.
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