It took an entire borough of Mets, as well as 10 innings, to deliver a walk-off 5-4 victory over the Giants in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Francisco Lindor shrugging off an errant — and nearly calamitous — throw to smack the winning single. Pete Alonso’s balletic, “Swan Lake”-worthy stretch to secure the aforementioned Lindor toss, somehow keeping his foot on the bag to make sure the Giants’ ghost runner stayed ghosted in that wild 10th.
Tylor Megill’s resilience. The bullpen’s stinginess. The Mets needed every inch Thursday, and that included every millisecond of video studied by the team’s replay analyst, Harrison Friedland, as their two challenges directly led to the impressive comeback win.
Game 2? That was basically a Max Scherzer highlight reel, with the Mets’ current ace carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning and striking out 10 in a 3-1 victory that completed the sweep on a frigid night at Citi Field. Scherzer whiffed the first two Giants in the sixth, but walked the next two before giving up an RBI single to Darin Ruf, who slapped a 1-and-1 changeup into leftfield.
Scherzer finished the sixth with 94 pitches, but he wasn’t done, returning to pitch a perfect seventh and become only the third starter this season to go over the century mark (102 pitches).
“I always like to pitch Game 2 because I like to know where the bullpen situation is at,” said Scherzer, who has now won a career-best 14 straight decisions. “For me, I really had seven innings circled.”
As for the chance of notching his third career no-hitter, both Scherzer and Buck Showalter agreed he’d be on a 110-pitch count going in. Would they have stretched that limit if he still had a shot?
“I don’t know,” Scherzer said.
Here’s what we do know about the Mets. At 9-3, they have the most wins in the majors, and thanks in large part to Scherzer, their rotation ERA (1.56) is the sport’s lowest.
“It shows we’re a good ballclub,” Scherzer said. “We can compete with the best.”
In all facets of the game. Because none of the Mets’ heroics in Game 1 come to pass without two pivotal challenges by Showalter, on plays that looked to the naked eye as bang-bang outs. And as the manager later pointed out, his man Harrison was a key piece in that chain of command.
“We’re lucky to have the best replay guy in the business in our guy,” Showalter said between games.
Heading into Thursday, Showalter was 1-for-2 on challenges this season, but his career success rate was only 55.3% (84-for-152) before joining the Mets, not great by today’s modern standards (the Reds’ David Bell led the NL last year at 10-for-13, or 76.9%). The previous two seasons, Luis Rojas was a combined 40.6% (13-for-32). As for Thursday, we’ll start at the end, considering that 10th-inning overturn was the ultimate momentum-changer.
In the 10th inning, with the go-ahead run at third and two outs, Thairo Estrada slapped a hard but routine grounder at Lindor, who rushed a wide throw that appeared to pull Alonso off the bag. At least that’s how first-base umpire Sean Barber saw it.
Not Showalter and Friedland, however. As the manager signaled for the challenge, the Citi scoreboard showed a freeze-frame of Alonso’s outstretched glove corraling the ball as his foot grazed the bag. Alonso excitedly pointed up at the image. The crowed roared.
Moments later, the verdict came back in the Mets’ favor. Alonso wildly pumped his first. Another W for Friedland.
“When I called [Friedland] back, I said just taking a chance, we got nothing to lose?” Showalter said. “He goes, nah, I actually think he might be on the bag. He’s very good at that.”
That reversal paved the way for Lindor’s winning single, but the seeds for this victory were planted much earlier, back in the fifth inning, when the Mets trailed 4-1. The overturn that opened the door seemed at first glance a fairly innocuous event. Brandon Belt sparked a nifty 3-6-1 double play on Jankowki’s grounder, which then would have emptied the bases for James McCann with two outs. That early in the game, the majority of managers might have let the call ride. Personally, I thought it was a wasted gamble.
Add that to the many reasons why I’m not managing the Mets. Not only did Showalter’s challenge put Jankowski back at first base with one out, McCann, McNeil and Lindor soon followed with doubles that tied the score at 4. Considering that Giants starter Alex Cobb also was forced to depart that inning with a groin injury, the Mets were able to flip the entire course of the game, triggered in part by that replay decision.
“Look what happened,” Megill said. “We came back and we won. It’s awesome.”
As was Scherzer shortly afterward.