NEW YORK -- It was a question this season whether veteran Jose Bautista had anything more to give to the game of baseball. A first-pitch walk-off grand slam by Bautista in the bottom of the ninth inning not only gave the Mets a 5-1 win against the Rays on Friday night at Citi Field, it also silenced the questions.
The Mets signed Bautista on May 22 after the Braves released him, and the veteran has recently made a name for himself on the Mets' roster. He has hit .300 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in his last 17 games and has reached safely in 18 of his last 19 games. He has also drawn 20 walks in his last 19 games, which Mets manager Mickey Callaway points out is one part of Bautista's game that makes him dangerous.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
"His ability to take the balls just off the plate puts him in a position where pitchers have to pitch to him," Callaway said. "They know, 'I can't fall behind this guy because I have a good chance of walking him,' especially in that situation. So as a pitcher you're like, 'I got to get ahead of him,' so he threw the first pitch, and he put the bat on the ball."
The ninth inning began with a Todd Frazier walk, then Devin Mesoraco kept the rally going with a single to left field. Amed Rosario laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Brandon Nimmo was intentionally walked with two outs to load the bases.
That's when Bautista stepped up to the plate and cracked a first-pitch grand slam 418 feet to left-center. The homer was Bautista's first career walk-off home run and his sixth career grand slam. The walk-off grand slam was the Mets' first since Ike Davis did it in 2014.
The homer was the 337th of Bautista's career, making him the second player in MLB history to hit 300-plus homers before his first walk-off blast -- Mark Teixeira's first game-ending homer was the 409th of his career.
When asked if it felt different, Bautista responded, "Yeah, it's a good feeling. I mean the game is over so you enjoy putting the other team away and doing something good for your team. Getting W's is usually a good thing."
The Mets scored an unearned run in the third inning when Nimmo reached second on a throwing error by Rays shortstop Willy Adames. Asdrubal Cabrera later plated Nimmo with a single to left earning his 13th RBI in his last 16 games.
Adames made up for his error in the fifth inning when he belted a solo homer off Jacob deGrom to tie the game at 1.
The Mets had a chance to go ahead in the sixth, when Frazier lined a one-out double to the center-field fence. Wilmer Flores attempted to go from first to home, and the Rays completed the 8-4-2 play to get the overly aggressive Flores at the plate. Mesoraco then struck out to end the inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Mets have been lacking the ability to play small ball and score runs all season. In the ninth inning, they showed they could do it all. After Frazier walked, Mesoraco attempted to bunt a few times drawing Rays third baseman Matt Duffy, opening the gap to then single through to left field. With runners on first and second, Rosario placed the perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position. Although it may not have been game-changing because of Bautista's homer, it was relevant.
"It was great to see because you can do some things. You're not just sitting back waiting for the homer that we eventually got," Callaway said. "In situations like tonight, it's going to win you a game from time to time."
Bautista is the eighth Mets player with a walk-off grand-slam. He joins Tim Harkness (June 26, 1963, vs. Cubs), Jim Hickman (Aug. 9, 1963, vs. Cubs), Mike Jorgensen (June 11, 1980, vs. Angels), Tim Teufel (June 10, 1986, vs. Phillies), Kevin McReynolds (June 25, 1991, vs. Expos), Jordany Valdespin (April 24, 2013, vs. Dodgers) and Davis (April 5, 2014, vs. Reds).
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hailey Dawson, 8, threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday wearing a Mets-themed robotic, 3D-printed hand. She has Poland Syndrome, which is a birth defect that caused her to be born missing three fingers. The Mets are the 19th team she has thrown out the first pitch for -- her goal is to do it for all 30 MLB teams.
HE SAID IT
"I was aware of it, but I guess sometimes it just takes a while." -- Bautista, on this being his first career walk-off home run
Steven Matz looks to build on his last start (5 1/3 innings, one unearned run) in his first career appearance against the Rays on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET. Matz has stayed healthy for the longest stretch of his career, and in his 16 starts this season, he owns a 3.46 ERA. He will take the mound opposing Rays left-handed ace Blake Snell.