The start wasn’t pretty, but the turnaround win over the Pirates was much needed for the Mets on Sunday.
New York found itself down by six after the first as All-Star starter Taijuan Walker gave up six runs in just one-third of an inning -- three of which came on an infield single from Kevin Newman and Walker’s ensuing error.
A day after New York gave up a walk-off grand slam, Dominic Smith led off the top of the ninth inning with a single against Richard Rodríguez to set up Conforto to give the Mets their first lead of the day.
“I mean, what a team win,” said Conforto, whose homer was just his fourth of the season. “The bullpen throwing up zeros the rest of the game and the bats continuing to put together great at-bats. … I just happened to be the guy to have the big swing today. And you never know who it's gonna be each and every day. It's a big one for me. A big one for the team. Now get a happy flight to go into Cincinnati and keep this thing rolling.”
The comeback win made the Mets the third team in the modern era to blow a six-run lead and lose, then erase a six-run deficit and win the next day, according to STATS. The only other teams to pull off such a feat were the Rays on July 27-28, 2019, and the Braves on July 13-14, 1997.
Mets manager Luis Rojas, who was ejected in the first inning after arguing the fair-ball call on Newman’s infield single, said Conforto’s go-ahead blast is a promising sign for the club, which had to place star shortstop Francisco Lindor on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain Saturday.
“From the TV angle, [Conforto] missed some pitches, and he was a little late on some fastballs throughout the game,” Rojas said. “For him to make the adjustment in that last at-bat against a really good closer ... it just says a lot about Michael. And he's one of the guys that we're waiting to catch fire, because he's a guy that can help our offense even more.”
Down, 6-0, after Walker’s early exit, the Mets’ bullpen combined to hold the Pirates scoreless through 8 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and one walk in the process.
The performance from the bullpen was highlighted by lefty Aaron Loup, who escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth inning after allowing two singles and hitting a batter. But the left-hander proceeded to strike out Adam Frazier, Wilmer Difo and Bryan Reynolds to keep the Mets’ deficit at one run.
“It ain't exactly how I drew it up -- to load the bases,” Loup said. “I told [Taijuan] after he had come out of the game, before we made it down to the bullpen, that we were gonna go pick him up [and] not to worry about it.
“So at the time I loaded the bases, I told myself, 'We're getting back in the game. It’s [6-5].' I said, 'It can't go down like this. … You got to find a way to get out of it somehow. Whatever it takes, you got to find a way to get out of it.' I managed to make some good pitches and squeak out of it some kind of way.”