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Mets stun D-backs with 2 HRs, 4 runs in 9th

June 17, 2018

PHOENIX -- It rained this weekend in Arizona, the type of biblical downpour that happens infrequently enough for some of the desert's more cynical dwellers to conclude, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, that a black cloud might be following the Mets. Losing 19 of 24 games coming into Sunday's play, the Mets

PHOENIX -- It rained this weekend in Arizona, the type of biblical downpour that happens infrequently enough for some of the desert's more cynical dwellers to conclude, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, that a black cloud might be following the Mets. Losing 19 of 24 games coming into Sunday's play, the Mets could pin the blame on their bullpen, their offense, their defense -- anything, really, other than their starting pitching.
There was also the less quantifiable fact that the Mets never seemed to catch a break.
In the ninth inning Sunday, they caught two, using a pair of Arizona defensive mistakes to give Brandon Nimmo a chance in a one-run game. And in the midst of a breakout season, Nimmo delivered, hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth inning of the Mets' 5-3 win over the D-backs at Chase Field.
"We've been waiting for a big hit to happen," Nimmo said. "I don't know what it means for the future, but for right now, to get two wins in a row against a good D-backs team, that's awesome."

Consecutive wins may not seem like much, but for a Mets team that hadn't accomplished the feat in nearly a month, they were everything. Trailing for most of Sunday's game, Nimmo described a "tense" Mets dugout, staring down a series loss to a potential playoff team. Facing D-backs closer Brad Boxberger, who shut them down without issue Thursday and Friday, the Mets slid further into their shells when their first two batters in the ninth struck out.
Next up was Jose Reyes, the focal point for so many of the Mets' frustrations in recent weeks. Noticing a defensive overshift, Reyes dropped a bunt just in front of home plate, where catcher Alex Avila speared it rather than let it go foul. By the time Avila whirled around, ball in hand, Reyes was nearly at first base.
The Mets' second break happened moments later, when Jose Bautista punched an outside fastball down the right-field line. Though Bautista struck the ball well enough to send it close to the wall, it hung up for nearly five full seconds -- enough time for Statcast™ to register Jonathan Jay's catch probability at 99 percent. But Jay didn't catch it; the ball glanced off his glove, allowing Bautista to cruise into second with an RBI double.

Still, the Mets trailed, but now the top of their order was up. Already with a single, a double and a run scored on the afternoon, Nimmo hammered a Boxberger changeup 419 feet over the fence, clapping his hands and grinning as he rounded first base. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a solo shot, and Robert Gsellman pitched around an error to record the final three outs in the ninth.
"Just elated," was how Nimmo described the moment. "It felt like a weight had been lifted off us."

Much work remains for the Mets, who are still eight games under .500 and will play their next seven against the Rockies and Dodgers, both of whom also entered this season with playoff aspirations. But at least they now have hope. Nimmo is as hot as at any point this year. Michael Conforto is breaking out of his slump. And the Mets' starting pitching -- Zack Wheeler struck out eight over six innings of two-run ball Sunday -- continues to thrive, with the league's best ERA since May 21.

Although manager Mickey Callaway noted that "the way we won is probably more significant than just getting a back-to-back win," the Mets will take the bump in the standings, too. Nimmo joked that their consecutive wins reminded him of a famous scene from "Major League II," in which fictional manager Lou Brown attempted to convince his players that winning streaks are, in spite of so much evidence to the contrary, possible.
"Yeah, it's been a while," Nimmo said, still grinning well after the game's official end. "And so for us to get that second win in a row, on a big hit, that's really good for our positivity going forward, our momentum going forward. Like I said, I don't know what it means for our future. I hope this team keeps fighting."

Making his own luck: Reyes' slump had grown long enough, and conspicuous enough, that he was beginning to have trouble escaping talk of the Mets releasing him. While the team did go that route with another slumping 30-something, Adrian Gonzalez, they offered Reyes a bit more rope.
He took advantage of it Sunday with one of his best games as a Met, making several slick defensive plays behind Wheeler before coming to the plate in the ninth. Pushing his bunt just far enough that Avila had to scramble out from behind the plate to grab it, Reyes dropped his head and reached a top sprint speed of 28.3 feet per second, per Statcast™ -- strong for anyone, elite for a 35-year-old. He then took second base on defensive indifference, scoring on Bautista's double.

"He made a perfect bunt," Avila said. "The ball was just dead there in the grass and I was going to try to make a barehanded play."
"I just put it down and ran, man," added Reyes. "It means a lot, because I feel like I contributed today. I contributed to the ballclub. I contributed to this win."
Although he did not appear in the game, Mets pitcher Jason Vargas chirped loud enough from the dugout that home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds ejected him during the fourth inning. Vargas appeared to take exception to Reynolds' calls during a four-pitch walk of Daniel Descalso, who took two pitches for balls that Statcast™ data showed as strikes.
After Reynolds ejected Vargas, Callaway emerged from the Mets' dugout for a brief conversation with the home-plate umpire. The situation escalated no further than that.

"I came in and told him, 'Thank you, I needed another little break to catch my breath,'" joked Wheeler, who allowed both of his runs in the fourth. "He sort of stuck up for me and voiced his opinion."
"It's a fresh breath of air. We needed that hit and he came through for us at the right time. He's becoming a very good player for us." -- Wheeler, on Nimmo's home run
Mere minutes after his team took the lead in the ninth, first baseman Dominic Smith gave the D-backs a bit of life when he dropped Cabrera's throw on a routine ground ball, attempting to transfer it from his glove to his hand between his legs. Callaway challenged first-base umpire Bruce Dreckman's safe call, but the call would stand after a replay review. When Gsellman retired the next three batters to take him off the hook, Smith pointed to the sky in obvious relief.
"I don't think Dom Smith will try to transfer the ball in between his legs anymore," Callaway said.

The Mets are 2-8 in the last 10 games Jacob deGrom has started, despite his 0.87 ERA in those contests. They can only hope a trip to hitter-happy Coors Field will help them give deGrom a bit more support. He'll open a four-game series there on Monday, starting an 8:40 p.m. ET game opposite left-hander Tyler Anderson.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.