Polar Bear ices win with walk-off HR in extras

McNeil's three RBIs, two defensive gems help Mets take 3 out of 4

May 19th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Pete Alonso was not thinking about Max Scherzer’s oblique injury when he stepped to the plate in the 10th inning on Thursday afternoon, any more than he was considering Francisco Lindor’s form at the plate or the forecast of impending snow in Denver. These are all issues relevant to the team, but they weren’t to Alonso in that moment.

“I was just looking in my zone, in my area,” Alonso said. “He came right where I was looking, right where I wanted it, and I capitalized.”

“He” was Giovanny Gallegos, the St. Louis closer who had entered to protect a one-run lead in the 10th. The “zone” in question was middle-in, just where Alonso likes it. The pitch was a fastball. With all those factors in his favor, Alonso did what he does best, bashing the ball 447 feet to the edge of a glass-encased luxury club in Citi Field’s second deck. The two-run homer lifted the Mets to a 7-6 win over the Cardinals, allowing them to brush past the news of Scherzer’s impending absence on what otherwise could have been a depressing day.

“I mean, it sucks to hear about Max,” Alonso said. “But we’re going to battle and play hard behind whoever’s going to throw the ball for us.”

On Thursday, it wasn’t only Alonso, whose walk-off homer gave him sole possession of Major League Baseball’s RBI lead with 36. It was also Jeff McNeil, who drove home three runs at the plate and made two fine catches in left field, including a leaping grab that allowed him to start a key double play in the seventh. It was Lindor, who at one point had reached base safely in eight consecutive plate appearances. It was Chris Bassitt, who gutted through a good-enough start, and three relievers who limited the damage.

The Mets, as is their way, prefer not to single out any of those players. They prefer to look at things as a team. In that context, the Mets:

• Have gone 26-14, tied for their fourth-best record through 40 games in franchise history
• Are 3-0 in extra-inning games, including two walk-offs
• Have posted a 10-1-1 record through their first 12 series of the season
• Own the largest division lead in baseball, at seven games over the Phillies

Those factoids are all true despite the fact that the Mets have played the entire season without Jacob deGrom, and now find themselves without Scherzer, rotation-mate Tylor Megill and starting catcher James McCann.

“It just shows a lot about this team,” McNeil said. “We’re coming here every single day, fighting, battling. No matter who’s on the field, we’re playing some good baseball.”

The Mets did most of their damage Thursday in the fifth inning, when McNeil singled home a pair to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run lead. Closer Edwin Díaz gave back that lead in the ninth, though it was hardly his fault; both the Cardinals’ hits off him came on infield dribblers, and Díaz eventually recovered to strand the bases loaded. St. Louis scored once more in the 10th, bringing Alonso -- who had driven home a run with an opposite-field single way back in the first inning -- to the plate with Lindor, the automatic runner, on second base.

The first baseman took a slider well off the plate to begin the at-bat, then pounced when Gallegos threw the pitch he was hoping to see: a 92-mph fastball in a perfect spot for him to crush it.

When Alonso did, his teammates poured out of the dugout, dousing him with Gatorade and mobbing him on the field.

“This group is extremely special -- not just the character, but the type of work ethic we have as well,” Alonso said. “We’re a gritty bunch, and we’re super resilient. We just want to come out and put our best foot forward and win every single day.”