NEW YORK -- The Mets arrived at Citi Field on Sunday facing an unenviable ultimatum: defeat Luis Severino, an early American League Cy Young Award candidate, or cap a winless homestand with their ninth straight loss. Increasing the degree of difficulty was the fact that their own starter, Seth Lugo, was stretched out only enough to give them approximately 80 pitches.
On paper, it was a mismatch. But baseball is not played on paper, as Lugo, a former 34th-round Draft pick who has made a career of beating odds, rightly knows. Giving the Mets more than they could have hoped considering his pitch restrictions, Lugo blanked Major League Baseball's top-ranked offense for six innings, and Todd Frazier provided all the offense in a 2-0 win over the Yankees. That snapped the Mets' longest losing streak in 14 years.
In 14 starts, Severino has allowed just five homers. The fifth of them came after Jose Reyes singled in the fifth inning, as Frazier gave the Mets the lead against his former club.
"One of those sliders that he threw just hung up a little bit longer," Frazier said. "With him, he's dominant, so when you get a pitch like that you have to drive it."
Arguably Frazier's most famous home run during his time with the Yankees came at Citi Field last September during a series against the Rays that was moved to Queens because of Hurricane Irma. A Mets fan responded with a thumbs-down gesture that became a trademark for the Yankees during their unexpected postseason run.
Frazier's home run Sunday elicited a different reaction from Mets fans, and was more than enough with Lugo dealing.
"Lugo set the tone today," Mets reliever Robert Gsellman said.
After allowing two-out singles in the first and second innings, Lugo retired the final 13 batters he faced. With a pair of relievers warm in the sixth inning, Lugo induced a popup from Gleyber Torres and a flyout from Brett Gardner, then froze reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton with a 95 mph sinker on his 84th and final pitch.
"He wanted to go back out and we needed him to back out," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of the sixth. "That's how you do something special."
In so doing, Lugo lowered his ERA to 1.77 -- fourth among big leaguers with at least 40 innings pitched. The reigning AL and NL Cy Young Award winners, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer, are fifth and sixth.
After Lugo departed, the team leaned on two shutout relief innings from Gsellman and one from Anthony Swarzak to complete their first win since May 30.
Stopping short of calling it "a now-or-never situation," Callaway nonetheless harped on the importance of the win for a Mets team that had lost 10 consecutive games at Citi Field. Lugo's role in the slump-busting victory was not lost on the manager, who hinted that he may have earned a more permanent stay in the rotation, even after Noah Syndergaard returns from the disabled list.
The Mets will make those decisions in the weeks to come. For now, with a 10-game road trip looming, the Mets were happy to take a rare happy flight to Atlanta.
"We've got to get the ball rolling," Lugo said. "Against a team like that, one of the best teams in the league, hopefully that's the momentum we need."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With regular closer Jeurys Familia and setup man AJ Ramos both on the disabled list, the Mets had to find a way to piece together the game's final nine outs. Gsellman pitched the seventh and, after a brief conversation with Callaway, returned for the eighth. That left Swarzak as the obvious candidate to face the heart of the Yankees' batting order in the ninth.
Recently returned from the DL himself, Swarzak struck out Stanton, walked Greg Bird then induced a line-drive double play that Gary Sanchez hit right into Frazier's glove.
"With [Familia] being out, it just creates opportunity for everybody else," Swarzak said. "I got the ball tonight in the ninth. I don't know if that's going to be the case on Tuesday. But if it is, I'll be ready to go."
Mets starting pitchers posted a 2.16 ERA over the team's eight-game losing streak, something that hadn't happened in 99 years. The last MLB team with an ERA that low over an eight-game stretch of losses was the 1919 Senators, who posted a 1.73 mark.
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera departed after three innings due to a sore left hamstring, but the team was relatively unconcerned about it after the game. Cabrera didn't travel with the Mets to Atlanta, staying back in New York to undergo tests. Still, the team does not consider it a potential DL situation.
"He felt like he could have kept on going but he didn't want it to get worse," Callaway said. More >
HE SAID IT
"Tonight was just a good night for the team here. We needed that win. Every game's important. Fans needed that win. The stadium was definitely rocking tonight. It's been rocking all weekend, and I think the fans deserved that one." --Swarzak
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Reyes' season-long issues continued in the eighth inning. With a runner on first base and one out, pinch-hitter Aaron Judge hit a routine grounder to shortstop. Amed Rosario fielded and fired to second base, where Reyes straddled the bag without actually touching it as he threw well wide of first base, allowing Judge to reach safely.
Although umpires initially ruled Miguel Andujar out at second, a replay review overturned that call, sticking Reyes with a fielding error and a throwing error on the same play. Reyes' only solace was that Gsellman retired the next two batters without issue, preserving a two-run lead in spite of the gaffe.
"I just missed the base," Reyes said. "In that situation, I have to touch the base and make the double play. But Gsellman picked me up. That's what teammates do. We pick each other up."
The Mets will put their Citi Field struggles behind them when they embark on a 10-game, three-city road trip beginning Tuesday in Atlanta. Zack Wheeler will start the 7:35 p.m. ET opener of that two-game set at SunTrust Park, opposite right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.