Jose Lobaton's sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the 12th inning lifted the Mets past the Nationals, 5-4, on Thursday night at Nationals Park.
Things you should know about tonight's game...
1) New York loaded the bases on a single and two walks in front of Lobaton, who collected his first RBI since April 27 during his first big league plate appearance in more than three months. The Mets led 3-0 in the sixth and 4-2 in the eighth, but Anthony Swarzak allowed a single and a walk to begin the frame. Daniel Zamora battled Bryce Harper for nine pitches before getting him to fly out to the right-field fence, but Robert Gsellman surrendered an RBI groundout to Rendon and game-tying double to Juan Soto. Both runs were charged to Swarzak.
2) Despite striking out 13 times against Max Scherzer -- who is now 10 punchouts shy of 300 for the season -- New York took a 3-0 lead into the sixth on back-to-back homers by Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. Jeff McNeil doubled, tripled and scored a run on Bruce's RBI single in the eighth which increased the Mets' lead to 4-2. The 26-year-old rookie has 18 multi-hit performances and he's tied for second with David Wright for the most hits (64) through his first 55 career games. Jose Reyes is first with 68.
3) Conforto's fourth career long ball in 23 at-bats against Scherzer was also his eighth in September to go along with 24 RBIs and 13 extra-base hits -- all Major League highs. It was his 27th roundtripper of the year which equals the career high he set last season. He also walked three times giving him 76 in 2018. Amed Rosario had three hits -- including a leadoff single in the 12th -- for the second straight night and for the third time in eight games.
4) Jason Vargas took a one-hit shutout into the sixth before allowing a two-run homer to Anthony Rendon. He was lifted after 5 2/3 innings and was charged with two runs on three hits, two walks while tying his season-high with eight strikeouts -- both times against the Nationals. Vargas lowered his ERA to a season-best 6.25.
5) Seth Lugo pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Vargas while Tyler Bashlor and Jacob Rhame combined for four strikeouts in three shutout frames. Rhame (1-2) allowed a leadoff double in the 11th but worked out of a first-and-third, one-out jam by striking out Mark Reynolds and Soto in succession. Paul Sewald worked a perfect 12th for his second save of the season and career.
Michael Avallone, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Let's just get this out here right now: I believe the Mets have several major holes to fill going into 2019 if they hope to fashion themselves a contender. A solid seven-week stretch doesn't change that ... but ... this team was also never as bad as they looked during that two-month stretch capped by a historic and horrific June when they won six games. As always, things generally even out in baseball, but unfortunately for the Mets, they were so bad that the evening out process can't erase the damage done.
Two key reasons for hope in the future, whether it's next year or beyond, are Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario. It's easy to get sucked into the "woe-is-me" refrain as a Mets fan, but to let it cloud every bit of legitimate positivity is foolish. Rosario has made the necessary adjustments and shown that talent daily for the last six weeks. His approach is far better, he's not chasing as often and shortening up his stride has appeared to work wonders for him. So, has simply playing everyday and learning as a 22-year-old who came into the year with less than two months of big league experience. His final numbers may not look overly sexy, but that's largely due to his struggles the first three months of the year.
As for Conforto, it's a welcome development after the severe shoulder injury he sustained last year and his disappointing first half. Personally, I'm still surprised that he's become more of a slugger than a .300-type hitter with power. Of course, that could still be the case, but he's now approaching 30 homers -- a total he more than likely would have surpassed easily last year if not for his injury. But what is clear is that he was simply behind the curve after an offseason of rehab rather than prototypical baseball activities. Whether it was "finding" his swing, a strength issue or a combination of both, Conforto has been a monster in the second half and because he did largely the same thing last year, it's not a fluke.
The Mets have much to do to get back to where they want to be ... but at the very least they have two 25-and-under players who are showing they certainly will be a part of the core moving forward. It's something...
News and notes...
The Mets improved to 9-7 against the Nationals this season and 4-2 at Nationals Park with three games remaining. The win gave New York an 8-9 record in extra innings and 14-26 in one-run games.
With two home runs Thursday, the Mets have gone deep 27 times this month, two behind the Dodgers for the most in baseball.
Conforto has homered 13 times in his last 39 games which is tied with the Brewers' Christian Yelich for the most in the Majors in that span. He has 16 home runs and 47 RBIs in 59 games since the All-Star break.
Rosario is batting .338 (26-for-77) with eight extra-base hits, 13 runs scored, six RBIs and five stolen bases in 19 games this month.
McNeil is hitting .366 (26-for-71) with seven extra-base hits, 14 runs scored and eight RBIs in 19 games this month. His 26 hits in September are tied for the Major League lead with Rosario and his six triples are the third-highest by a Mets rookie behind Mookie Wilson (six in 1981) and Darryl Strawberry (seven in 1983).
Vargas has a 3.11 ERA and 35 strikeouts in his last seven starts dating to Aug. 14. In two starts against Washington, he surrendered two runs on six hits while striking out 16 in 11 2/3 innings. He has a 1.32 ERA in seven career meetings with the Nationals, including four starts.
Mets starting pitchers have the third-lowest ERA in the Majors in September at 2.96.
The Mets (71-82) continue their final road series of 2018 against the Nationals (77-76) on Friday night at Nationals Park at 7 p.m. on SNY.
Jacob deGrom (8-9, 1.78 ERA/2.05 FIP, 251 K's, 0.950 WHIP) continues his push for a Cy Young Award after allowing three runs while striking out 12 over seven innings against the Red Sox last Sunday. The 30-year-old has not won in his last five starts despite a 2.12 ERA and three double-digit strikeout performances in that span. DeGrom is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts against the Nationals this year and 6-4 with a 2.76 mark in 14 career matchups.
Joe Ross (0-0, 3.60 ERA/4.95 FIP, 0 K's, 1.200 WHIP) makes his second appearance of the season after allowing two runs over five innings against the Cubs last Thursday in his first start since he underwent Tommy John surgery on July 19, 2017. The 25-year-old is 2-2 with a 4.29 ERA in six career starts against the Mets, including a 4.76 mark in three outings last year.