PITTSBURGH — Wilson Ramos has his defensive shortcomings, and the Mets know it. They stick with him for nights like Saturday, when in a 7-5 win against the Pirates his bat more than compensated for any issues he has with his glove or his arm.
Ramos went 4-for-5 with a career-high six RBIs. His two-run homer to right in the eighth put the Mets on top, and his three-run double to right in the ninth provided critical insurance runs as they handed the ball to struggling closer Edwin Diaz (who allowed a two-run homer before finishing off the win).
With the win, the Mets (54-56) continued their surge toward .500 and gave themselves a shot at what would be a fourth series win in a row in the finale Sunday. This one represented a nice rebound after their seven-game win streak ended Friday.
“Tonight was elusive to us in the first half,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “It was tough to stop the bleeding. I think we understand that we have to do that. I don’t think we’ve ever given up, but we just have to get it done. It seems like we’re getting it done now.”
Ramos’ biggest blow was his last, right after the Pirates intentionally walked Robinson Cano to load the bases. Ramos, having rolled over a lot of grounders lately, said he understood the strategy and looked for a ball to drive the other way — which he did, shooting Chris Stratton’s fastball over rightfielder Pablo Reyes’ head.
“That’s my approach all my career, and today I was feeling good, driving the ball the other way,” Ramos said. “That made me feel excited.”
In his Mets debut, former Patchogue-Medford star Marcus Stroman allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, bouncing back from an ugly first inning to save the night from being a total disaster.
Pitching opposite Chris Archer, one of his best friends in baseball, Stroman allowed singles to each of his first three batters, drawing a mound visit from pitching coach Phil Regan after just 16 pitches. Josh Bell made it four in a row before Stroman got an out. Jose Osuna drew a bases-loaded walk, including ball four on one of plate umpire Bill Welke’s several questionable calls in the inning.
With the bases loaded, Stroman, a shortstop in his youth, made a smooth barehanded play on Kevin Newman’s chopper between the mound and third base to get a forceout at home. Mickey Callaway called it “the best play I’ve ever seen a pitcher make.”
“It gave me a little bit of momentum and confidence, too,” Stroman said. “I thought I was making some good pitches, and they were putting some good swings on balls. With my sinker, I feel like I’m a double play away at any point in any game. If I execute my pitches like I didn’t today, I’ll be able to go deeper like I didn’t today.”
Jacob Stallings’ pop-out to first ended the 35-pitch inning, which was long enough and bad enough that Callaway had righthander Chris Mazza begin to warm up in the bullpen. From there, Stroman mostly settled down. He worked around a pair of singles in the second and retired eight in a row, a streak that ended with Bryan Reynolds’ double in the fifth.
There were all sorts of potential reasons for Stroman to be off: the week and a half since his most recent start, the general hecticness of uprooting his Toronto life, the jitters of playing for a new team.
“He didn’t have his great stuff,” Callaway said. “I’m sure the energy was off the charts — new team, New York, his hometown, pitching for the first time. He battled. He was probably rusty because he hasn’t pitched in a long time, and he was out there doing everything he can to keep guys from scoring.”
Archer got through six innings allowing just one run (and five hits and two walks). The run came in the first, when Ramos singled to center to score Amed Rosario. The Mets had the bases loaded with one out, but J.D. Davis struck out and Todd Frazier grounded out to end the inning. Archer threw 33 pitches and gave up two more hits the rest of the night. Along the way, he struck out Stroman twice.
Stroman doesn’t think much of himself as a hitter, but he expects more on the mound.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel really good. I know my next one will be much crisper.”