Montero Started It and Cespedes Finished It
There was little optimism for tonight’s game. The Marlins were starting Jose Fernandez, who absolutely owns the Mets. Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera couldn’t play due to injury. That left the Mets with an extremely short bench as the team sent down T.J. Rivera to make room for Rafael Montero.
Yes, that Rafael Montero. In the biggest game of the biggest series of the year, the Mets led off with Montero against Fernandez because Jacob deGrom needed to have a start skipped with his recent struggles. In the biggest undersell of the century, this was far from optimal.
Also suboptimal was the strikezone. Montero, who has not dealt well with adversity in his career, was squeezed all night. He issued six walks in five innings. In four of the five innings he pitched, he was on the verge of a meltdown. But then something funny happened. Montero bore down.
He got out of a jam in the first by striking out J.T. Realmuto. In the fourth, he got out of a bases loaded jam by getting the opposing pitcher, Fernandez, to ground out. In the fifth, he induced a ground ball from Marcell Ozuna, and third baseman Kelly Johnson started the inning ending 5-5-3 double play.
It was ugly at times, but Montero pitched an effective five innings to give the Mets a chance. His final line was five innings, two hits, no runs, none earned, six walks, and three strikeouts. It may not be an outing that would earn him another start, but it was a courageous outing that shows he may still yet have a major league future.
Sean Gilmartin and Jerry Blevins each followed Montero’s effort with a scoreless inning if their own meaning the Mets got through seven scoreless innings. It also meant the Mets successfully outlasted Fernandez, who was brilliant again.
Fermandez’s final line was six innings, three hits, no runs, none earned, four walks (one intentional), and six strikeouts. While not particularly noteworthy against this team, the Mets were 0-6 with RISP against him.
It became a battle of the bullpens, and the one guy you counted on most was the one who sprung a leak. Ichiro Suzuki hustled his way to a two out double off Addison Reed. Alejandro De Aza made a good play on the ball, but Ichiro is just that fast. Ichiro would then score on a Xavier Scruggs RBI double.
The Scruggs double was an absolute laser that Yoenis Cespedes didn’t have a real chance to get even at 100%. Still, he took a real baffling route to the ball.
The Mets, specifically Jose Reyes, would respond in the bottom half of the inning. Reyes lead off with a double off reliever A.J. Ramos. Ichiro misplayed the ball, but Reyes was getting to second regardless. Reyes tagged and moved up on a deceptively deep De Aza fly ball. Normally, you’d question running on left fielder Christian Yelich who has a cannon. However, with him back pedaling, Reyes made a great read and took third.
Cespedes then stepped to the plate with the crowd a buzz. Ramos would throw a wild pitch allowing Reyes to score. Ramos would come down on Reyes’ shoulder, but Reyes would stay in the game.
Cespedes and Curtis Granderson would follow with singles, but the Mets couldn’t push either home.
Jeurys Familia pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. He wasn’t available to go deeper as he was due up third in the bottom of the ninth. Terry Collins couldn’t double switch him in as he had no bench to do that.
After the ninth, the Mets really had no bench. With two outs in the ninth, Rene Rivera was announced as the pinch hitter against the lefty Mike Dunn. Don Mattingly countered with the right-handed Nick Wittgren. Then in a move that made no sense Collins went to Jay Bruce as Collins was the only one who expected Bruce to hit one out of the park. He didn’t meaning the lone position player left was Walker, who couldn’t play due to his lingering back issues.
Josh Smoker picked the Mets up with a lights out 1-2-3 tenth where he struck out two of the three batters he faced. Smoker has gotten progressively better with each and every outing since he was recalled, and he earned his first major league win because, well, Cespedes.
With two outs in the tenth, Cespedes hit the walk off at a time the Mets desperaty needed it. They were almost out of pitchers. They had no more bench players, and he bailed them out evening the Mets with the Marlins in the standings.
Game Notes: With the short bench, deGrom grounded out while pinch hitting for Montero in the fifth.
Pennant Race: The Nationals beat the Phillies 4-0. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 6-5. The Pirates lead the Cubs 6-3 in the seventh.