The Mets have been searching for offense throughout this two-game series against the Miami Marlins. Eduardo Escobar supplied it for them Wednesday night at Citi Field in a 5-4 walk-off win.
Escobar went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBIs. He homered in the seventh inning and hit a game-tying single in the eighth to drive in four runs overall before driving in Francisco Lindor with a single in the 10th.
The Mets (98-58) regained a one-game lead in the NL East over the Atlanta Braves (97-59), who lost their own extra-inning contest to the Washington Nationals. There are still some concerns as the Mets depart for Atlanta for a crucial weekend series. The Mets did squander one opportunity to gain ground in the first game of the two-game series and the offense was nearly lifeless for about 17 innings against Miami, save for a couple of big home runs by Pete Alonso and Escobar and a flukey run balked in on Tuesday night, courtesy of Richard Bleier. The offense seems to stop and start and sputter out.
But still, they’re in good position with a day off heading into the weekend, thanks to Escobar.
“For him to come through for us late in the season, it’s huge,” Mets’ starter Taijuan Walker said. “I knew he could do this all along and he’s doing it at the right time for us.”
Escobar’s home run came off of Jesus Luzardo in the seventh inning with no outs and it chased the lefty from the game. Luzardo had been fantastic to that point and ended the night with just two runs on four hits while striking out six and walking two.
Tanner Scott walked the bases loaded in the eighth. Escobar sliced a single to right to score Brandon Nimmo and Alonso.
The Mets nearly had another rally going in the ninth when Tomas Nido hit a one-out double, taking Andrew Nardi back to the center field wall. He was replaced by pinch-runner Terrance Gore and Nimmo walked to put two on with the heart of the order behind him.
But Alonso swung at ball four and Lindor popped one up.
Walker pitched well through five innings and change, but Luzardo absolutely stifled the Mets’ bats, shutting them out through six innings. The offense left Walker with little room for error.
The Marlins took two off Walker in the fourth when Bryan De La Cruz drove a 2-2 fastball to center field. Walker got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth but it was a dicey inning. Charles Leblanc worked the count full before walking with two outs to load the bases. Walker then had Brian Anderson on 0-2, but Anderson took three straight balls for another full count.
He eventually swung through a splitter to strike out and end the inning. It was good work by Walker but when he came back out in the sixth, he walked Nick Fortes and then faced De La Cruz for the third time. De La Cruz doubled to the left field corner and in came Seth Lugo to relieve him.
“I actually thought Tai had some of his best stuff of the year,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s really frustrating for him because he would like to have the pitch back to Cruz. But that’s what’s frustrating with this game sometimes — you carry that type of stuff and there’s just not a return for it.”
Walker allowed three earned runs on six hits, three of which came from De La Cruz. He walked two and struck out eight.
Lugo minimized the damage but still allowed a run to score on a fly ball. He then gave up another run in the seventh to put the Mets down 4-0. Adam Ottavino and Edwin Diaz each tossed scoreless innings to keep the Mets in the game.
Drew Smith (3-3) struck out two in the 10th, excelling in a high-leverage situation. He entered the game right as the Braves’ loss was announced.
“I wasn’t [aware] until the crowd screamed, so I just looked and saw it on the scoreboard,” Smith said. “That made it a little sweeter to get the run, for sure.”
It was a big outing for Smith, who has only made four outings since returning from the injured list on Sept. 20. He allowed a grand slam in his first outing a week ago and it hasn’t sat well with him ever since. Smith is one of a few key relievers vying for postseason roles and this was a nice boost to his resume.
“I feel like I’ve responded well since then,” he said. “This outing was the best one yet.”
The Mets were in and out of the clubhouse throughout the game following the action down in Washington. As much as they tried not to think about their divisional rivals they’re aware of the magnitude of this week and what comes next. The Mets shuffled the rotation for the weekend and will start Jacob deGrom on Friday, followed by Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt, but that could change depending on how Hurricane Ian impacts the scheduling of the series.
“To be able to come back 4-0 like that, it’s impressive,” Showalter said. “I’m really proud of everybody.”