November 28, 2022

Mets rally late to pull off series split against Dodgers

The Mets beat the Dodgers, 5-4, in 10 innings by sticking to their old tricks.

LOS ANGELES — The Mets sealed a series split against the Dodgers by doing something old and doing something new. The old: rallying late, coming back and taking the lead. The new: Buck Showalter using his closer in the eighth inning, rather than the ninth, to face the three best hitters at the top of the Dodgers order. After late-game dramatics, the Mets beat the Dodgers, 5-4, in 10 innings by sticking to their old tricks, and in doing so, the Amazin’s proved they can hang with the best in the league.

Edwin Diaz protected a two-run Mets lead when Showalter flipped the script and called on his closer for the eighth inning. Diaz was lights out, inducing fly outs to Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman before freezing Trea Turner on a slider inside. In an unusual sight, Diaz walked off the mound and into the dugout rather than high-fiving his catcher after a shutout inning.

“He was facing three guys that might win MVP,” said Showalter, who added he didn’t use Diaz for more outs because he wanted to save him for Monday. “We put our best guy out there.”

There was more work to be done, still. Setup man Seth Lugo had the ninth, and he promptly coughed up a leadoff home run to Dodgers catcher Will Smith, who parked an opposite-field tater to right field and cut the Mets’ lead to one measly little run. Lugo couldn’t hold on. He surrendered a double to Chris Taylor and an RBI single to Eddy Alvarez as the Dodgers tied the game and sent it to extra innings.

The Mets (37-19) got back in front in a hurry when J.D. Davis ripped a double to center and scored Pete Alonso, the free runner at second in the 10th inning. With all of Showalter’s high-leverage relievers already used, it was up to Adonis Medina to try and lock down his first career save. Medina, tasked with facing those three dangerous hitters again—Betts, Freeman and Turner—got his first two batters out, but catcher’s interference put Turner on first base with the tying run, free runner Gavin Lux, at third.

“It felt like a playoff atmosphere,” Eduardo Escobar said.

But the 25-year-old reliever on the mound, who was pitching in just his 11th big-league game, didn’t put any extra emphasis on the situation. Adonis fixated on his decisive job, then he struck out Smith for the final out to end an incredibly exciting series against the Dodgers. The Mets lost the first two games, bolted out of that setback, came back and took the final two. Later, Eduardo Escobar said Medina’s performance was “the best” and that he “threw like a veteran, like the big boy that he is.”

“For me, this has been one of the biggest moments of my career,” Medina said. “To have the team have that trust in me, to pitch in that big spot, it’s really been everything for me.”

Down one run in the eighth, Francisco Lindor initially lit the rally spark when he opened the inning with a ground-rule double to right field. Then Pete Alonso, who is as clutch as clutch gets for the Mets right now, collected his 54th RBI of the year when he ripped a game-tying double to left field that easily scored Lindor. Escobar moments later gave the Mets the lead, sailing a go-ahead sacrifice fly to right field, and Tomas Nido padded on with an RBI single for the insurance run.

If the Mets can mount one of their usual comebacks against the NL West juggernaut Dodgers, all while they’re missing aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer to the injured list, it’s astonishing to wonder what they might do the next time they face them. The Dodgers come to Citi Field on August 30, and if all goes to plan, their Cy Young arms should be back in the rotation by then.

“Hopefully the test is at the end of the year. I think this was more like a quiz,” Davis said. “We weren’t at full strength. We didn’t have deGrom, we didn’t have Scherz. … Just to come here and get a split, that says a lot about our team. Just like what Uncle Stevie said, we got some grit on this team. Don’t count us out.”

But the late-game theatrics were only made possible because of Trevor Williams and the Amazin’s bullpen that kept them in the game long enough to let the offense come back and rally in the eighth.

Williams allowed two runs on six hits, accompanied by no walks and five strikeouts, across five innings and 86 pitches in his fifth start of the season for the Mets. His season ERA stayed put at 3.58, since the only runs he permitted came off the bat of Trea Turner, in the form of a first-inning, two-run home run. Then Williams refocused to turn in a solid outing.

“It’s a testament to our grit and it’s a testament to our guys not giving up,” Williams said. “To get the win that we got last night and to come back and win today and fight it out in extra innings, that’s just something special.”

The right-hander gave up a ton of hard contact—five of the six hits he allowed had an exit velocity of 91 mph or higher—while even the balls that fell for outs were crushed. But, despite the seemingly never-ending threat from the Dodgers lineup, Williams barreled down and retired 14 of his next 18 batters following the home run to Turner.

Showalter said he’ll look back fondly at the job Williams did on Sunday, because it allowed the skipper to save some of his relief arms for the next test: a three-game series against the Padres beginning Monday. The Mets passed the first test, or quiz, of their 10-game, 11-day tour of Southern California. They’ll try to keep building off their last two games at Chavez Ravine to keep proving what some have already known: don’t count out the Mets.

“Last man standing,” Showalter said. “They’re a really good team. Really proud of our guys battling back after the first couple of games. Kind of settled into the timezone and everything. Beat two really good pitchers the last two days, too. Big turnaround on not much sleep. I’m proud of everybody.”