by Scott Mandel. SportsReporters.com
It’s too bad only 20,843 baseball fans showed up tonight at Citi Field to watch Game #144, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With only 18 games remaining to this season, and the Mets four games out of an attainable playoff berth, you would expect a greater turnout.
But, the half-empty stadium witnessed a thriller of a game, which the Mets won, 3-2 because of Zack Wheeler’s solid seven-inning effort, the ninth inning heroics of the reliever, Justin Wilson and, Pete Alonso’s defense. Yes, that’s right, his defense.
It was the ninth inning. Two outs. The game-tying run stood on third. The go-ahead run stood on second. Wilmer Flores, the longtime Mets infielder who holds the record for most walk-off RBIs at Citi Field in team history stood at the plate, facing Wilson.
“We’ve all seen him do it plenty of times,” Wheeler said. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”
“That was going through my mind. I promise you,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I’ve seen it. He’s done it more than anybody in the history of Citi Field, so it was going through my mind. There was no doubt about it.”
This time, with the game and the Mets season on the line, Flores went down swinging on the final pitch of Wilson’s four-out save, giving the Mets a 3-2 win Tuesday night in Queens.
Callaway was asked after the game about keeping Wilson in the game instead of going to his struggling closer, Edwin Diaz.
“I just had to stick with Wilson. We all know the struggles that Diaz has had and Wilson has been really good. I felt like at that point it was Wilson’s [game],” Callaway said. “He willed it. I’m not saying we’re gonna run from Diaz. He’s gonna get his chances, too … but we called down in the eighth and asked Wilson if he could get four outs for us.
“I thought Wilson was gonna get it done. Some way, somehow.”
With Seth Lugo unavailable after pitching two innings the previous night, Callaway counted on the lefty, Wilson, the only other reliever who has earned his trust. Wilson, who has a 1.54 ERA since the All-Star break, came on to record his first four-out appearance since his only previous save of the season on April 2.
“Late in the season, everything kind of goes. Gotta win games,” Wilson said. “Clearly we’re still in a little bit of a hole. Luckily we have enough games left to make a push. Everyone’s available in any situation.”
Wilson allowed a walk and stolen base to Josh Rojas in the eighth, but kept the Mets in front by retiring Adam Jones. The ninth inning started like so many for the Mets this season.
Nick Ahmed opened with a single up the middle, and Kevin Cron added a one-out hit. With runners at the corners, Ketel Marte nearly hit into a game-ending double play, but after Pete Alonso stepped on first base — following a diving backhand stab — the rookie threw to third base, failing to notice Tim Locastro caught between first and second base.
“Young guy, you don’t know what he’s gonna do, and he kind of spazzed out,” Frazier said. “Could’ve had a double play, but your mind’s going a mile a minute.”
‘“He didn’t have his best stuff. He didn’t have his best command, but he dug deep and got through it,” Callaway said of Wilson. “He’s gonna need a day or two off, but it’s worth it for the win tonight. He was unbelievable. He kind of willed that game, that save.”
The Mets pulled to within three games of the second wild card slot with the Cubs losing in San Diego. Perhaps, Mets fans, a group that is always hoping for a pennant race, will decide to turn out tonight, with Steven Matz going for his 10th win of the season against Arizona lefty, Robbie Ray.