Gabriel Ynoa was in Las Vegas Thursday night and threw in the bullpen but never got on the mound with the Mets minor league Triple-A 51s team. Consider that a tuneup because moments later the 22-year old, from La Vega, Dominican Republic, received a call that he was headed to New York.
Saturday night at Citi Field, Ynoa, the 6″2′ righthander got his first Major League win in the Mets 3-2 win in 11 innings over the San Diego Padres.
It was an unexpected call, but one he has been awaiting. More so, the Mets in need to provide Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins some reinforcement along with Hansel Robles out of the pen, and at the back end, needed some help. So, there was Ynoa getting the call from manager Terry Collins in the Padres 11th.
It was needed because Jeurys Familia failed to convert a save. And with two outs in the ninth, Familia blew it throwing a home run ball, so a win the Mets needed was quickly gone until the dramatics of Wilmer Flores came into play with that rare walk-off fielder’s choice play that went for a win.
So, who is Gabriel Ynoa, that shut the Padres down and helped the Mets get a win they needed to keep pace in this chase for the second wildcard?
He is the first Mets pitcher to make his Major League debut as a reliever and pick up the win since Kenny Greer who did that in relief back on September 1993 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Very emotional,” said Ynoa through a team interpreter. He retired the side and got Adam Rosales swinging. “Happy to have this opportunity. I struck out a batter” And his manager hopes there will be many more of those swing and misses down the stretch as the Mets fight for that second NL wild card spot.
Collins needed the reinforcement out of the pen. Logan Verrett gave up a career high eight-runs in 2.2 innings Friday night and was sent to Las Vegas. Ynoa will give that back end depth that is needed with Jonathon Niese moving into the rotation, though the reacquired lefthander had an injection in his left knee to calm some recurring pain.
“We are looking at protect ourselves to get some length out of the bullpen,” Collins said about Ynoa getting the call. “Ynoa will certainly save us to get to the back end of the bullpen.”
Ynoa and Familia, comprise two of three Dominicans in the Mets pen. Robles is the other and he threw three scoreless innings the night before in a Mets loss to the Padres. They will all get to know other, and learn together during this juncture in the season that gets crucial for the Mets in their quest to be a part of October baseball.
“He was giving me the breakdown, the everyday basis,” said Ynoa about Robles. They worked together at the Mets Double-A Binghampton affiliate in 2014 and briefly with the Brooklyn Cyclones in the Short-A season League.
He smiled. Robles told him when he arrived in the Mets clubhouse Saturday afternoon, everything from what to wear and what to do out there in the pen.
“Great opportunity to have the chance to play with guys from my country and also the American guys,” he said.
Up until his debut at Citi Field, Ynoa was `10-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 23 starts with Las Vegas with 36 walks and 72 strikeouts. He was signed as a non drafted free agent on November 19, 2009 ,and with Binghampton was 9-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 25 games.
“Been working hard to get here,” he said, “In the meantime, I will get the call and come from the bullpen and give the team support.” He said, the goal was to get a win, and it came quickly as Familia threw his first home run ball of the season in blowing his second save.
The game ball was still in his hands, and moments later Ynoa was answering text messages on his phone from family and friends back home in the Dominican Republic.
For now, the journey is complete and Ynoa is here. “I will cherish this now, and for myself the rest of my career.”
And for the Mets, that security in the bullpen became evident. Collins said after the win, “We’re just hoping this turns the tide. Hopefully this is the start of something.” Things went the Mets way Saturday evening, and the new guy out of the pen was that good incentive to get things going.