With captain David Wright on the shelf with an injury, his close friend Michael Cuddyer is the nearest thing the Mets have to a reliable veteran leader. Cuddyer was up to the responsibility Thursday night at Citi Field, delivering a two-out, walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning to give the Mets a 5-4 victory over the Giants that put them back in first place in the NL East.
The Mets had lost six of their previous eight, including the first two games of the series against the Giants in ignominious fashion, getting no-hit by unheralded rookie Chris Heston and then watching ace Matt Harvey suffer his worst outing of the season.
Manager Terry Collins underlined the significance of the win, saying, "It's huge morale-wise for us. We had the MLB [Network] guys come in, and John Smoltz said, 'How are you doing?' I said, 'Well, we just got no-hit, and our star pitcher just got his brains beat out. Our best two hitters [Wright and Daniel Murphy] are on the DL. How do you think I'm doing?'
"So yeah, today was a big win for us."
Before the game, Collins spoke of how much Wright's leadership has been missed but added that Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson were trying to fill the void. Both came through in a big way as Granderson had two hits, drove in the run that tied it at 4 in the seventh and then scored the winning run.
Cuddyer delivered a two-run double in the fifth for a 3-2 Mets lead. After Granderson was hit by Giants reliever Sergio Romo with one out in the ninth, took second on a passed ball and went to third on a groundout, righthander Romo intentionally walked lefty Lucas Duda to get to Cuddyer, who drilled a first-pitch fastball up the middle to score Granderson.
"It feels really good, one, to get a win; two, to get a win we needed and then, the fashion that it happened," Cuddyer said. "It's big for the team, big for me, a big win."
Describing the winning hit against Romo, Cuddyer added, "Last night, he started me off with a fastball, and tonight, he started me off with another one. This time, I swung and was able to get the hands through the zone."
Mets starter Jon Niese has struggled since his last win on May 9, and he loaded the bases with no outs in the first and counted himself lucky to give up only two runs. Giants starter Tim Lincecum no-hit the Mets through three innings, but Travis d'Arnaud had an RBI single in the fourth for the first hit. In the fifth, Niese doubled, moved to third on Grandersons' single and scored the tying run on a one-out sacrifice fly by Duda. Cuddyer delivered a double that scored Granderson from first base for a 3-2 Mets lead and forced the Giants to lift Lincecum.
Suddenly, Niese was in the driver's seat, recording 12 straight outs. But with two outs in the top of the sixth, Justin Maxwell reached on an error by third baseman Eric Campbell. Niese then gave up a two-run homer to Brandon Crawford to restore a 4-3 Giants lead.
"It's tough," Niese said. "You want to pick up your guy when he makes an error. I made a bad pitch."
But Niese got off the hook when Granderson's RBI single in the seventh tied it at 4 to set up the Mets' third walk-off win of the season.
Cuddyer said he and Granderson aren't trying to do anything extra. "We're just being who we are," Cuddyer said. "Maybe guys feed off that. You just try to do the job the right way."
Notes and quotes: The Mets activated reliever Bobby Parnell and called up Dilson Herrera to play second . . . Catcger Kevin Plawecki remained on the roster but unavailable while the cause of his dizziness is being diagnosed . . . General manager Sandy Alderson said Long Island's Steven Matz's innings pitched are being "managed" in Las Vegas to preserve his availability later.