Bruce breaks out, hits game-winning HR in 10th

April 24th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- About five hours before Tuesday's scheduled first pitch at Busch Stadium, a gaggle of Mets hitters crowded around the cage for early batting practice. Among them were , whom manager Mickey Callaway admitted was struggling to fix his problems at the plate, and , an idiosyncratic individual who often eschews on-field batting practice in favor of the privacy of the cage.
As hitting coach Pat Roessler looked on, Callaway personally threw to the struggling hitters, laughing afterward at the soreness in his shoulder. He certainly considered it worth the pain. Hours later, Bruce hit a go-ahead homer in the 10th inning of the Mets' 6-5 win over the Cardinals, after Cespedes had belted a three-run shot, which entered the record books as the longest homer by a Mets player since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015.
"That's the day that we've been waiting on to get those guys going," Callaway said.

For most of April, the Mets received little production from their starting outfield trio of Cespedes, Bruce and , relying instead on and to carry the offense. Bruce in particular was struggling not only at the plate, but with his health; a case of plantar fasciitis cost him time earlier in the month, and whether it was related or not, he entered Tuesday in a 3-for-32 (.094) slump.
That began to change in the second inning, when Bruce hit a sharp ball to left that misplayed into an RBI triple. In the eighth, Bruce singled, allowing to follow with a game-tying sacrifice fly. Things stayed that way until the 10th, when Bruce came up with the bases empty and two outs.

When Cardinals reliever offered an 82-mph splitter down in the zone, Bruce pounced, crushing it 405 feet to straightaway center field.
"I haven't really felt in sync for an extended period of time yet," Bruce said. "But I'm working at it every day. It's something that's going to come and go, but when I feel good and feel normal, it's pretty consistent."
Even Bruce's shot, however, paled in comparison to Cespedes' 463-foot, three-run homer in the fifth, which tied the game after Zack Wheeler allowed four runs -- half of them on a Tommy Pham homer -- in four innings.

From there, the Mets turned to a new bullpen face, Matt Harvey, who allowed one run in two innings in his relief debut, then to a trio of familiar ones. retired six of the seven batters he faced, before wriggled out of a two-on, no-outs jam in the ninth to set the stage for Bruce. Finally, delivered a perfect 10th for the save.
"We haven't really been clicking on all cylinders overall, but we've had guys pick us up, and we've been playing really good baseball," Bruce said. "And I think that's an ode to the depth and the talent on the team."

At 463 feet, Cespedes' home run was his longest since joining the Mets in 2015. According to Cardinals records, it was also the third longest by a visiting player at Busch Stadium.
For the first time, Harvey appeared as a reliever in the fifth inning, allowing a run on back-to-back hits by and . Harvey, who has made his displeasure with his new role known, recovered to throw a scoreless sixth.

"He's taking it like a man. He wasn't excited about it. He's going to go out there and do the job." -- Callaway, on Harvey
Puzzlement infiltrated the Mets' dugout when the Cardinals challenged Bruce's home run in the 10th, contending that he did not step on first base. In the dugout, Bruce received a phone call from Mets replay coordinator Jim Kelly, who confirmed that Bruce stepped squarely on the bag. The umpires' review yielded a similar result.
"I did not expect that to happen," Bruce said. "But everyone has their reasons, I guess, and they felt like they needed to challenge it. ... I've hit a few home runs in my career, and I've never even come close to missing a base."

Yet to last more than 5 1/3 innings in a start this season, will look to go deep for the first time when he pitches Wednesday against the Cardinals. Last time out, the Mets lifted Matz for a pinch-hitter after just four innings and 74 pitches, in a game they went on to win. Matz will oppose right-hander in an 8:15 p.m. ET game at Busch Stadium.