The Mets avoided what would’ve been just another disastrous loss.
The Mets were on their way to a laugher with 10 hits, 11 runs and four home runs, yet they literally had to sweat out an 11-10 win over the Chicago White Sox last night at a steamy Citifield.
21-year old rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez paced the offense by slamming two, long, two-run home runs with four RBIs while Tommy Pham and Jeff McNeil also had multi-hit games.
After Alvarez’ second home run gave the Mets an 11-4 lead after six, they nearly gave it all back in the seventh as the White Sox scored five times to narrow the gap.
Grant Hartwig, who was awarded the win, was on in relief of starter Carlos Carrasco but he committed a cardinal sin by walking leadoff hitter Andrew Benintendi with a seven run lead.
After Tim Anderson singled to put two on, Luis Robert Jr struck out and Trevor Gott replaced Hartwig, but a mental mistake in the infield allowed the Chisox to mount a comeback. Andrew Vaughn was the first batter to face Gott and he hit a grounder to third but Baty threw late to second as Anderson beat the throw.
Jake Burger doubled in two to make it 11-6. Yasmani Grandal, who homered earlier in the game, singled to bring in two more and suddenly, the lead was down to three.
Brooks Raley replaced Gott and walked Carlos Perez to load the bases. With Seby Zavala at the plate, Alvarez was charged with a passed ball to allow another run to score as the White Sox chipped away to make it an 11-9 game.
Adam Ottavino pitched a scoreless eighth and David Robertson was brought on to close it. As has been the case all season long for the Mets, nothing comes easy.
Robertson walked the lead off batter, Grandal, but Zach Remillard popped out to second and Gavin Sheets lined out to center.
After pinch-hitter Elvis Andrus walked to put the tying runs on base, Benintendi singled to drive in Grandal to make it a one run game, but Robertson retired Anderson on a fly out to center.
For the first six innings, the Mets were giving the home fans a taste of what could’ve been, or maybe, what should’ve been for this team that has underachieved this season.
The Mets put a five spot up in the first against White Sox starter and loser Lucas Giolito. It was only the seventh time that the Mets had multi-runs scored in their first at bat and it was the biggest first inning output all season.
Brandon Nimmo led off with a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Pham followed with a line drive double down the left field line on an 0-2 pitch that scored Nimmo with the first run.
Pham took third on a wild pitch during Francisco Lindor’s at bat. Lindor walked on another 3-2 pitch and the Mets had runners at the corners with no one out.
Pete Alonso hit the first pitch to deep left center field for his first sacrifice fly of the season that scored Pham with the second run. After McNeil struck out on a controversial check swing, Alvarez drove a 1-0 pitch deep into the left field stands for the first of two and his 18th home run of the season and a 4-0 lead.
Alvarez goes to the plate with a plan, an admirable trait for a young player. “In the first at bat, I was looking for something soft there,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “[Lucas] Giolito’s known for throwing more off speed there, that’s what I was looking for, that’s what I was focused on. The second at bat I know the pitcher throws a lot of fastballs, so I geared up for the fastball. The first pitch he kinda beat me to it so the second fastball he threw, I was ready.”
Brett Baty followed Alvarez with his 6th home run of the season as the two youngsters went back to back for the first time this season and the Mets had a 5-0 lead after one.
The Mets padded on with a run in the second and two more in the fourth. D.J. Stewart, who was the DH batting ninth, led off with his first home run as a Met. With two on and two out, McNeil made it an 8-2 game with an RBI single.
McNeil drove in another run in the sixth before Alvarez went deep again and he now leads all Major League catchers with 19. It was the third multi-home run game for Alvarez this season and he now has 11 home runs in 7 games in July. Alvarez is seven home runs shy of tying Johnny Bench for the most home runs by a catcher in his age-21 season.
Alvarez continues to impress and not just with the home runs as he continues to demonstrate plate discipline with two walks.
Mets Manager Buck Showalter likes the way his young catcher controls the strike zone. “Just under control, the walks he took tonight was impressive,” said Showalter. “When you have that type of power at your fingertips, you want to swing, you want to hit the ball, you want to make it go a long way. The ability to not get out of the strike zone and let them use your aggressiveness against you.”
Even with the big lead, Carrasco was charged with four runs in 4 2/3 innings. “Carlos didn’t have the command he had in his last two outings,” Showalter said. “It’s not always walks, it’s kinda being wild in the strike zone. He is a pitch away from getting us through the fifth, just couldn’t finish it off.”
When it was over, I was reminded of a classic call by the late, great Bob Murphy. If I may paraphrase, “They win the damn game by a score of 11 to 10.”