Though Noah Syndergaard delivered the biggest blow at Chase Field Tuesday night, Jerry Blevins prevented a bigger blow. Syndergaard homered in no-doubt fashion in the fifth to give himself and his team a 3-1. A pitcher going yard will always grab your attention, even if the concept of Thor homering is no longer novel; it was his third of the year and the fourth of his career. Noah’s closing in on making us wonder what’s wrong when he doesn’t hit one out.
The very big shot was part of a four-run inning that seemed incredibly unMetlike within the context of their 2016 experience with the Arizona Diamondbacks, rumored to be a horrible last-place team, though we can’t tell. The Diamondbacks swept our boys last week at Citi Field and then throttled them Monday night at Phoenix. The can-go/did-go wrongness quotient was freaking off the charts in every encounter between the two, right up to the batter before Syndergaard, René Rivera, walloping a Braden Shipley pitch to deepest center, only to have it hauled in by 2013 Never Met Michael Bourn. It should have been a two-run double, maybe triple (even with the catcher running). Instead, it was a sac fly that scored T.J. Rivera from third, hallelujah, yet left a suitably cautious Alejandro De Aza stuck on second.
That the Mets had two baserunners preceding a long fly ball should have seemed like a victory unto itself. These are the Arizona Diamondbacks we’re talking about. They are as lethal as their uniforms are abysmal. Yet how typical, within the four-plus games of this season series — two on, nobody out, one Rivera muscles up, yet only one Rivera can score…and the first Rivera can’t even get on base.
Syndergaard made that turn of events relatively moot when he brought De Aza home with his blast, and Shipley gave up another run besides on Jose Reyes’s ensuing three-bagger and Curtis Granderson’s shockingly productive flyout. The Mets led, 4-1, going to the bottom of the fifth, and padded their margin in their half of the sixth when Kelly Johnson homered, peripatetic T.J. Rivera (with four hits and two errors, he was all over this game) singled and De Aza doubled. The D’Backs even made up for the Bourn larceny when nobody on the left side of their infield could make heads or tails out of a Reyes ground ball that went for a two-out RBI single.
Mets up, 7-1. What could possibly go wrong?
Youngish Rivera, starting at third at the last minute due to Neil Walker’s lower back pain (a condition prone to flaring up when you’ve been carrying the offense for weeks), commenced the bottom of the sixth with a bad throw to first. A wild pitch moved the baserunner, Jake Lamb, to second. Welington Castillo’s single with one out moved him to third. Mitch Haniger, who had just replaced Socrates Brito on the roster, cleared the bases with his first big league hit, a triple, and trimmed the Mets’ lead to 7-3. Every Diamondback is a Met-killer from birth, apparently.
Thor, who had been more or less cruising through the first five, popped up his next batter, but then was undermined by another Rivera miscue, this one requiring replay review to confirm. When an out call on pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin rightly turned safe, the Diamondbacks had another run. Then they had another stolen base, because NS + AZ = SB. One more hit drew Terry Gosselin onto the mound to fetch his smoldering starter, who had struck out eight but now wouldn’t make it through six. Syndergaard proceeded to fling his glove with characteristic velocity at the nearest wall, which was the second-most disconcerting sight within the Met dugout at that moment, next to noticing Jon Niese is still among us.
Enter Blevins to face Bourn. Bourn had earlier doubled, and the night before notched two hits. Perhaps he’s still sore that his free agent dance with the Mets from several winters before had tangoed into nothingness. Having robbed Rene Rivera in the fifth, he seemed primed to do more damage. I don’t have a stat to back up that assertion, but given what the Mets have had on their hands with the Diamondbacks last week and this, I can confidently cite minority owner Bill Maher’s recurring HBO segment: I don’t know it for a fact, I just know it’s true.
Blevins and Bourn battled for eight pitches. The count reached three-and-two. The Mets led by three. The Diamondbacks had two on. Sixteen runs had scored on Monday. Eleven runs were in on Tuesday. I didn’t know it for a fact that Bourn was going to drive in anywhere between one and three runs imminently. I just knew it was true.
Here’s some truth: Blevins struck out Bourn on the eighth pitch. Three innings later, Jeurys Familia would come on to record his fortieth save of the season by pitching a one-two-three ninth and officially preserving a nervous 7-5 Met victory — their first over these demons of the desert — but, really, Jerry saved the day. Syndergaard’s swing was more glamorous, but the one Blevins coaxed from Bourn proved the most vital.
If you stayed up to watch the entire three hours and twenty-four minutes Tuesday, on top of the three hours and twenty-nine minutes from Monday, perhaps you heard Gary Cohen list as one of the sponsors of Mets baseball on SNY Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Makes sense. You definitely need something stronger than good old Rheingold to get you through these games. By next week, it’ll be morphine.