Kodai Senga was tossing his best game as a major leaguer but he had nothing to show for it as he was still on the short end of a 1-0 score after eight brilliant innings.
Senga deserved a better fate and he got it, thanks to his rookie catcher, as the Mets staged a miraculous rally in the ninth to stun the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 2-1 come from behind win.
“Reminded everybody of a lot of things we’d done last year,” Mets Manager Buck Showalter said after the biggest win of the season so far.
It was the Mets’ fourth straight win and second series win in a row after not winning a series for a month.
Christian Walker had given Arizona a 1-0 lead as he capitalized on the only mistake that Senga made when he led off the seventh inning with his 18th home run.
The Mets took a page out of last season’s book as they were down to their final strike but rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez showed why he was the #1 prospect in baseball. Alvarez, who homered in the first game of the series, brought the Mets back from the agony of defeat as he clubbed a 3-2 pitch from Diamondbacks closer Andrew Chafin for a game tying, solo home run that electrified a previously despondent dugout.
During the at bat, Alvarez got ahead in the count but the 2-1 pitch was called a strike, much to the displeasure of the rookie. A young player could have lost his composure, but not Alvarez who seems to thrive in these situations.
“We haven’t been getting that call the entire game,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “I had to keep battling, I had to keep competing there. Just with that home run there, it was kind of saying that last one wasn’t a strike.”
The 21-year old, realizing the magnitude of the blast, showed his youthful enthusiasm as he ran around the bases. “You guys saw me running around the bases. I did everything to celebrate that moment,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez was so fired up that he was giving “painful” high fives when he got back to the dugout. “I hit Baty super hard, he might have a bruise right now,” the rookie catcher said.
Chafin may have been spooked by the home run as the next batter, Brett Baty singled on an 0-2 pitch. Mark Canha then took the first pitch from Chafin and hit it to deep centerfield for a run scoring triple that scored Baty and gave the Mets the lead. “I saw it well and I told myself if you see it there first pitch, go for it and I put a good swing on it,” Canha told SNY on the field after the game.
David Robertson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 13th save and second in two games. The Mets closer retired pinch-hitter Dominic Fletcher on a deep fly out to left for the first out. Corbin Carroll hit a comebacker that deflected off of Robertson and right to Pete Alonso at first for the second out and then Walker struck out on a 3-2, knuckle curve to end it.
Senga gave up the one run on four hits with a career high tying 12 strikeouts and the Mets needed all of that as they did not score against Arizona’s pitching staff for 8 2/3 innings. “It was tempting not to put him out there for the ninth inning,” Showalter said.
“With the All Star break coming up, I knew I had a lot of days off so I wanted to go deep in the game,” Senga said through an interpreter. “To be able to do that, it was special.”
The retractable roof at Arizona’s Chase Field gave Senga a chance to pitch under similar conditions to the stadiums in Japan and he felt that helped him. “No wind in the dome, no coldness. I was able to grip the ball,” Senga said.
The Mets had two runners on in the 4th and 5th innings against Diamondbacks starter Tommy Henry but they could not push a run across.
Henry tossed six scoreless innings while relievers Kyle Nelson and Scott McGough combined for two scoreless innings until Chafin came in to pitch the ninth.
Alvarez is starting to heat up again after he went through a down period. The home run was his third in four games after he went 15 games without hitting one. It was also the rookie’s Major League leading 5th game tying or go ahead home run in the 6th inning or later. (Thank you Sarah Langs)
Alvarez may be setting himself up for a late run at the National League’s Rookie of the Year award. “I think I’m slowly but surely getting back there,” he said. “I don’t think I’m back to the same level where I was that month I was playing well, but I think little by little I’ll be getting there.”
Alvarez’ heroics has impressed the Mets’ veteran players. “He’s [Alvarez] the real hero,” Canha said. “Ties the game up, takes the pressure off us and then lets me and Baty get up there and give us a chance to win.”
Is a win like this the impetus for the run that Showalter and the Mets keep telling us will happen?