With a bright sun and pitching dominating the day, who was going to blink first.
Marlins’ pinch-runner Billy Hamilton scored on a throwing error to break a scoreless tie in the tenth inning as Miami scored a 2-0 win over the Mets to earn a split in the four-game series at CitiField on Sunday.
The Marlins and Mets were scoreless through nine when Tommy Hunter came on to pitch the tenth inning with Hamilton at second as the “ghost runner.” Hamilton took off for third and had the base stolen but Mets catcher Tomas Nido overthrew third base allowing the Marlins pinch-runner to score.
“He [Nido] was just trying to make a play there, that may have not been there, Mets Manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “That’s why guys like Hamilton, almost like a post season thing. You can almost carry a guy like that just for the tenth inning.”
Later in the inning, Miami had two on and two out when Luke Williams singled to center field to score Jesus Sanchez with the second run.
The starting pitching match up lived up to its billing as All Star Sandy Alcantara and Taijuan Walker, who has had an All Star type season, matched zeroes for seven innings.
Alcantara, who is a leading candidate for the National League Cy Young Award, allowed six hits with one walk and four strikeouts. The Marlins ace has now tossed seven or more innings in 12 straight starts.
Walker was equal to the task. The Mets right hander allowed three hits, all to his personal nemesis, Jon Berti, who is now 7 for 10 in his career against him. Walker walked one and struck out seven and was able to shut down some potential innings with double plays.
“He matched him. Tai has been solid for us, that was fun to watch,” said Showalter. “He’s a smart man, he knows what’s going on, what’s required to compete in a game like that.”
In the top of the first, Marlins 1B Garrett Cooper grounded into an inning ending double play. Miami had a primo scoring chance in the fourth after Joey Wendle was hit by a pitch and Berti singled but Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, who had a brilliant day in the field, began a clutch double play.
Cooper hit a sharp grounder in the hole between short and third. Lindor back handed it and instread of throwing to third for a force out, Lindor threw to Luis Guillorme who got the out at second and fired to first for an uplifting twin killing.
In the top of the seventh, Miami had a major threat going with two on and no one out, but Walker emptied the tank and finished his night by striking out Brian Anderson to strand the runners. “I kinda was fatiguing a little bit. I knew it was going to be my last inning so I tried to amp myself up a little bit,” Walker said after the game.
The Mets had a couple of chances to break through against Alcantara. With two on and two out in the fourth, Jeff McNeil lined out to center field. With two on and one out in the sixth, Lindor hit into a double play and Pete Alonso popped out to first.
The Mets once again had two on and two out in the seventh, but Nido forced Luis Guillorme at second to end that threat and Alcantara’s day.
“We had a couple of pops at their starters, we just couldn’t cash in. That’s why he [Alcantara] is, who he is. He doesn’t let things get away from him,” Showalter said.
So, the Mets head to Atlanta Monday night for the opener of a three game series with a one and half game lead (2 in the loss column) on the Braves, their smallest lead since April 16th. It will be Max Scherzer against Atlanta’s Max Fried.
Showalter is not surprised at what the Braves have done to tighten things up in the NL East. “We understand, because they’re the World Champions, at some point you know they’re gonna be a part of it. That’s a given. Them being a competitive force in our division is a given,” he said. “You know you’re going to have figure out a way to be better than them to win the division. That was something we knew in the spring and nothing’s changed.”
After the game, four Mets were named to the National League All Star team. Starling Marte (2x), Jeff McNeil (2x), Pete Alonso (2x), and Edwin Diaz (2x).