Jonathan Villar did not get credit for a stolen base, but he stole what may have been the most important run of the season so far.
Villar took advantage of a mental lapse by Phillies’ first-baseman Rhys Hoskins to score the tying run and that sparked a six-run, eighth inning rally as the Mets came from behind and literally hung on for an 8-7 win last night at Citizens Bank Park.
Villar’s incredibly smart play made up for an awful at bat in the sixth. The game was tied at one and the Mets had a runner on third with one out, when Villar struck out on three pitches, all outside of the strike zone.
Didi Gregorius’ three run homer in the sixth gave the Phillies a 4-2 lead and was like a punch to gut for the Mets, but they got up off the canvas to score an impressive win on the road. “We’re not gonna make it easy, we’re relentless,” Pete Alonso said afterwards.
After Kevin Pillar’s home run leading off the eighth cut the deficit to 4-3, Villar reached on an infield single. With one out, pinch-hitter Jose Peraza lined a ball off of the glove of Phillies 1B Rhys Hoskins that rolled into short right field.
Villar easily took third and then made the fundamental play of rounding the bag, just in case there was a misplay by the Phillies defense which had an awful night overall. When Villar saw Hoskins not pay attention to him and then commit a mental lapse by lobbing the ball back to second baseman Nick Maton, he took off and scored without a throw. Alonso capped off the big rally with a bases clearing double to make it an 8-4 lead.
“That’s my game,” Villar said. “I pay attention to every throw. To the catcher, pitcher, every throw.”
Villar not only caught the Phillies by surprise, he even surprised his manager, Luis Rojas. “I looked down. To be honest, I was looking down,” Rojas said on the post game zoom. “I just heard a noise and I looked up and all of a sudden, he’s [Villar] going head first into home plate.”
Villar’s bit of daring pumped up a stunned Mets’ bench. “He better be safe,” Alonso said when asked what his reaction was when he saw Villar dash for home. “He’s such a great base runner, I call him “Caballo Loco,” that means ‘Crazy Horse.’ He’s the type of player that can cause a lot of havoc on the base paths. Huge team play.”
Even with a four run lead, this was a wacky night that was destined to have a wacky ending.
Edwin Diaz apparently gave up a tying, three run homer to Hoskins in the ninth, but upon replay review, it was deemed that the ball hit a railing in front of the right field stands. It was ruled a two run double, but Diaz was having back trouble so he had to leave the game.
With Hoskins as the tying run at second, Jeurys Familia was brought on and he struck out Bryce Harper to end it.
These last two nights have shown that things may be finally starting to come together for the Mets who have been able to tread water, but have not clicked yet. “These past two games, we’ve really played just such great team baseball,” Alonso said.
Michael Conforto has come out of his early season slumber and looks like a totally different hitter. Jeff McNeil is starting to come around and I like him at the lead off spot, even when Brandon Nimmo is in the lineup. Alonso is not a #3 hitter and belongs in the clean up spot behind Conforto.
The Mets showed some grit in winning their past two games.
Will a heads up play be the spark that gets this Mets’ team going? Stay tuned.