“Next man up” has been the credo for the first-place Mets seemingly all season long, and not just because of all the injuries they’ve had.
It seems to be a state of mind for the Amazin’s even when they fall back during a game, as they did Sunday at Citi Field against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. After squandering a slim lead for their newest starting pitcher, Rich Hill, in the sixth inning, the Mets stormed back in the bottom of the frame for four runs, a pair of which the red hot Pete Alonso drove in with another big home run.
The rally powered the Mets to a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays, taking two of three from Canada’s (and Buffalo’s) team.
Acquired via a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, Hill — the 16th different pitcher to start a game for the Mets this season — proved himself up to the task over the first five innings, holding the Jays scoreless while scattering four hits on just 49 pitches.
The soft-tossing veteran lefty got plenty of help from Mets catcher Tomas Nido. After Hill gave up a leadoff double George Springer in the first, Nido nailed Springer on a failed steal attempt at third.
In the top of the fifth, Nido came through for Hill again, picking off catcher Alejandro Neal, who had singled but wandered a little too far off the first base bag.
But the wheels fell off the wagon for Hill in the sixth, as he quickly loaded the bases. Manager Luis Rojas turned to reliever Seth Lugo to get them out of the jam, but once again, the reliever failed to get the job done — allowing a two-run single by Jays’ shortstop Bo Bichette. A third run scored in the frame when third baseman J.D. Davis threw home on a ground ball by outfielder Teoscar Hernandez that failed to get second baseman Marcus Semien at the plate.
Meanwhile, the Mets offense, after being stymied for five innings by starter Ross Stripling, got to the Toronto bullpen in the bottom of the sixth.
Alonso hit yet another bomb, a line drive two-run shot to the left field stands that scored right fielder Michael Conforto and evened the game at three. It was the two-time Home Run Derby champion’s fifth dinger in nine games since the All-Star Break.
The Mets kept the rally going in the sixth. After Davis walked and shortstop Jonathan Villar moved him over with an opposite field single against the shift, Rojas called upon Jeff McNeil to pinch hit for catcher Tomas Nido.
McNeil, who’d been sidelined for the last couple of games due to leg fatigue, came through big for the Mets with a clutch two-run double off former Met reliever Jacob Barnes. It extended McNeil’s hitting streak to 12 games and put the Mets back on top, 5-3.
The Jays drew closer in the top of the eighth, getting three hits off reliever Trevor May, including an RBI single by Hernandez. But after May got two outs, left-handed reliever Aaron Loup came on to get out of a bases loaded jam, forcing Cavan Biggio to fly out to left field.
But the Jays got no closer in the ninth, as Edwin Diaz shut the door, striking out three of the four batters he faced.
Next up for the Mets is a five-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, which starts with a doubleheader Monday afternoon at 5:10 p.m.
The Mets also got some good news on their ace, Jacob deGrom, who threw off the mound Sunday as he continues to recover from forearm tightness. He could be in line for a rehab start this week before returning to the big club.