CINCINNATI — Even by the Mets’ standards, historical and recent, their 15-11 win over the Reds in 11 innings Monday night was absurd, exhausting, epic and — eventually — gratifying.
Their five-run final frame included an RBI single by Jeff McNeil, a two-out, three-run homer by Kevin Pillar and a solo shot by Michael Conforto — the last of the team’s season-high seven home runs.
Pillar and Conforto went back-to-back, just as Pete Alonso and McNeil had in the first inning. Conforto also homered earlier in the game and Dominic Smith and pinch hitter James McCann also went deep.
Trevor May, pitching for a third day in a row, got the save by recording the final two outs: Nick Castellanos on a fly ball to the warning track in rightfield and Mike Freeman on a strikeout swinging after May fell behind 3-and-1. That stranded former NL MVP Joey Votto, the potential tying run, on deck.
The Mets blew leads of 3-0, 9-8 and 10-9. They also erased deficits of 7-3 and 8-7.
After 4 hours and 45 minutes — plus 34 hits, 15 pitchers and 10 plate appearances that yielded a tying and/or go-ahead run — the win went to lefthander Anthony Banda, who was called up by the Mets hours before the game with a 6.52 ERA in the minors.
Banda became the latest in a series of strangers who have showed up in the Mets’ clubhouse and become key contributors, even if just for a night. "I keep using the quote that we’re built for this," Pillar said. "And I think today was a perfect example."
The late-game madness began in the eighth, when McCann’s two-run homer gave the Mets (49-42) their first lead since the first inning.
Edwin Diaz allowed Jesse Winker’s tying double with two outs in the ninth, his third blown save in a row. When McCann put the Mets back on top with an RBI single in the 10th, bench coach Dave Jauss — filling in for manager Luis Rojas, who was suspended two games by MLB for arguing with umpires Sunday — went to Banda, with seemingly only he and Stephen Nogosek, also called up Monday, remaining in the bullpen.
Banda was charged with two unearned runs in 1 1⁄3 innings. In the bottom of the 10th, after allowing a tying single to Tyler Naquin (five hits), he had runners on first and second and nobody out — and escaped. Eugenio Suarez, ahead 3-and-1, grounded into a double play.
"The young man came in and threw strikes," Jauss said of Banda. "I love pitchers who threw strikes. We love pitchers who throw strikes."
Banda allowed back-to-back singles against the shift in the 11th, so Jauss went to May, who was available on an emergency basis only, Jauss said. A five-run lead in the 11th turning into a save situation was deemed enough of an emergency.
It turned out that this time the Mets had scored enough to survive. "I don’t think we can anticipate it would take 14 or 15 runs to win a game," Pillar said. "It was really nice to see us . . . really win a game by dominating at the plate."
The Reds stranded the would-be winning run on third base in the ninth and 10th innings. In all, they had 15 runners left on base. The Mets had six.
Just another day for the Mets, who have specialized in stick-to-itiveness. On Sunday, they fought back from a six-run hole to beat the Pirates.
"There’s not one guy in that clubhouse that is worried about his own personal well-being," McCann said. "First and foremost, everyone puts the team first. It’s kind of one of those cultures that has been created since Day 1 of spring training. That’s something that Luis preaches. It’s something that the veterans in the clubhouse preach. Buy in to this culture or you’re really not going to fit in.
"Every single guy that has walked through those doors to the clubhouse has bought in, and it makes it a lot of fun to show up to the ballpark every day."
The late drama rendered everything else a footnote.
Alonso and McNeil homered in the Mets’ three-run top of the first, answered immediately by the Reds’ four-run bottom of the first. Jerad Eickhoff, drawing the starting assignment as the Mets figure out what to do with the back end of their rotation, allowed seven runs (two earned) in 3 2⁄3 innings. In the opening two innings, the Mets made four errors, three by shortstop Luis Guillorme, who typically is smooth at a variety of infield spots.
"As a team, as a pitching staff, as a coaching staff, we want that ball hit to Guillorme, wherever he is, every time," Jauss said. "Because it’s an out."
It all worked out. Eventually.
"It was up and down, a lot of lead changes," McCann said. "But I don’t think guys ever wavered for one minute."