It didn’t matter that Pete Alonso was so sick that Mets manager Buck Showalter thought about not starting him. The All-Star clobbered his league-leading 16th home run of the year, and Tylor Megill held the Rays’ offense in check as the Mets pulled out a 3-2 win in the rubber game on Thursday afternoon.
The afternoon didn’t start off great for Megill, who allowed a lead-off double to Josh Lowe on a ball hit 102.5 mph. Lowe would later come around to score on an RBI groundout by Harold Ramirez to put the Rays in front early and continue New York’s first-inning struggles.
However, the Mets quickly answered with an RBI groundout of their own as both offenses struggled to truly break the game open.
After Francisco Lindor walked in the bottom of the first inning, he moved to third on a single by Jeff McNeil, and then Pete Alonso walked to load the bases for Brett Baty. Baty hit a roll-over groundball to first base to plate Lindor, but then Tommy Pham struck out with runners on 2nd and 3rd to end the first with the game tied at one.
The offenses remained quiet until Alonso started off the bottom of the 4th inning by taking a 1-2 fastball at 97 mph and drilling it 446 feet to center field for a home run to give the Mets a 2-1 lead.
The first baseman is currently battling a sinus infection that is severe enough that Showalter apparently texted him after last night’s marathon victory to see if the slugger wanted to take a day off.
He did not.
“For me, if I’m physically able to go, I’m always willing to go,” Alonso said after the game. “I take pride in being out there and playing every day…That’s a characteristic that I want to keep throughout my whole career. It’s just who I am.”
His recent performance has been so stellar despite the illness that he even had Showalter joking about whether the Mets can find a way to keep it going.
“I was thinking, can we find something that would keep him sick but with lesser symptoms?”
While the Mets enjoyed the victory, the game wasn’t without its tense moments.
After the Alonso home run, Tampa Bay starter Taj Bradley kept the Mets bats quiet, finishing the night with two earned runs, four strikeouts, and three hits in five innings.
The Tampa Bay bats then answered back to tie the game in the top of the 6th inning when Josh Lowe took a Megill slider and deposited it 440 feet to almost the exact same spot where Alonso’s home run landed.
After Randy Arozarena walked and Ramirez laced a single to left field, the Rays were just one hit away from taking the lead. But after Brandon Lowe swung and missed on a fastball, Mets’ catcher Michael Perez fired a pick-off throw behind Ramirez at first to catch him napping and end the threat.
That was the end of the day for Megill, who was pulled after throwing just 79 pitches, but would wind up being awarded the win. He finished with six innings, two earned runs, four hits, and four strikeouts. He generated 12 whiffs on 40 swings for a solid 30% whiff rate and lowered his season ERA to 3.88.
The tug-of-war between the two teams continued with the Mets adding a run in the bottom of the 6th inning.
Singles by McNeil and Baty put runners on the corner with one out for Pham. This time, Pham was able to deliver, hitting a slow grounder to third base for an infield single that scored McNeil. Pham would finish the day 2-for-4 with the RBI.
However, a strikeout by Daniel Vogelbach and a pop-up by Eduardo Escobar prevented the Mets from adding any insurance runs.
Luckily, the Mets wouldn’t need them.
Brooks Raley, Jeff Brigham, and David Robertson combined to keep the Rays scoreless in the final three innings and allow the Mets to hold onto a 3-2 win. It was their first series win since April 17th weekend when they took two of three against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Yet, even with the criticism the Mets have gotten for their play of late, Showalter isn’t ready to dwell too much on winning one series, even if it was against the team with the best record in baseball.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said after the game, “and starts again tomorrow with another series.”
The Mets will welcome the Cleveland Guardians to town for a three-game series this weekend.