Travis d'Arnaud's two-out hit in ninth lifts Mets, 5-4
Eagerness got the best of Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud, at least for a moment.
In the ninth inning against the Padres Friday night, with the go-ahead run standing on third base, d'Arnaud swung out of his shoes at Joaquin Benoit's letter-high, 3-and-1 fastball. And with the count full, he couldn't afford to make the same mistake twice.
So before the critical pitch of the Mets' 5-4 win over the Padres, d'Arnaud scolded himself for his lack of discipline.
"You can't hit what you can't see," he thought. Out loud, he offered another reminder: "Keep your eye on the ball."
When Benoit tried sneaking another high fastball by d'Arnaud, he responded by hitting it through the hole into rightfield, allowing Curtis Granderson to score the tiebreaking run for the surging Mets.
"That's big," said d'Arnaud, who also had a two-out RBI single in a three-run first inning. "We had good momentum when the All-Star break happened. We won tonight and we're going to keep it going."
The break came after an 8-2 homestand that vaulted the Mets back into the fringes of the race for the NL East title. But after four days off, they didn't miss a beat, winning for the ninth time in 11 games and moving to within 61/2 games of the second wild card.
"We're hopefully closing in and getting back into this a little bit," manager Terry Collins said.
In their first game of the second half, the Mets showed why general manager Sandy Alderson continues to hint about the possibility of approaching the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline as a buyer instead of a seller.
According to one estimate by Baseball Prospectus, the Mets' chances of qualifying for the playoffs stood at 3.8 percent at the start of the day. And although other outlets give the Mets somewhat better odds, none is particularly encouraging.
That hasn't deterred Alderson. "Sometimes you've gotta believe, right?" he said. "This is a time."
Even with their recent surge, the Mets remain four games under the .500 mark at 46-50, leaving plenty of ground to make up. Nevertheless, Alderson said a postseason run remains a possibility, however slim the probability.
"If you ask the guys on the field, they'd probably think we've got a little better chance than [3.8 percent]," he said. "We've got 67 games. I know the math. We've got to play well, and we've got to play well starting with this road trip and pretty much straight through."
The Mets got off to a good start, thanks to d'Arnaud. His game-winner in the ninth came after the Padres elected to face him instead of Lucas Duda, who was intentionally walked with Granderson at third.
Benoit was pitching partly because the Padres had traded Huston Street to the Angels during the game.
Earlier in the day, Alderson cited several positive trends of late, including a bullpen that has rounded into shape, the Mets' newfound ability to play well at Citi Field and their overall offensive improvement. They provided glimpses of some of those improvements against the Padres.
The Mets took a 3-0 lead against Ian Kennedy with a two-out rally in the first inning capped by an RBI single by d'Arnaud and a two-run single by Juan Lagares with the bases loaded.
The Mets added on in the third when Kirk Nieuwenhuis grounded out to drive in Duda, who began the inning with a double to the gap in right-center.
But the Padres took advantage of a weakened Bartolo Colon, who pitched through an upset stomach. He began with four shutout innings, but he said his strength waned in the fifth, when the Padres tied it with four runs. Chris Nelson and Alexi Amarista had RBI singles and Chase Headley added a two-out, two-run single.
But the Mets held the line. Dana Eveland tossed a pair of scoreless innings ahead of Jeurys Familia, who pitched a scoreless eighth. In the ninth, Jenrry Mejia nailed down his 11th save in 13 chances.
If the Mets keep this up, Alderson might have to explore the market for upgrades.
"I haven't had a lot of conversations so it's not clear to me what the opportunities will be," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see. My hope is that things pick up a little bit as we get into the schedule after the All-Star break and maybe after this weekend. Right now, we're just kind of canvassing possibilities."
The Mets would prefer not to trade young players, though Alderson said it would be possible in the right circumstances.
"It's conceivable, I guess," he said. "It wouldn't be our first choice, I don't think. But it's a possibility, as long as we felt we had adequate or better replacements for that player."
Alderson insisted that he has the financial ability to add to the roster. "I think we have flexibility," he said. "Again, it depends on where we are and how we're performing and whether we can tack on some wins to the eight we got before the break."
Still, much of what comes next will be determined by how the Mets fare on a 10-game road trip that begins with three-game series against the Padres and Mariners before a four-game set against the Brewers.
"It was nice to go 8-2 but we've got a lot of ground to make up," Alderson said. "So it will be important to put wins on the board over the next 10 days or so, and I think that will give us a better idea vis-a-vis our competition and what they do."