A slow Tyler O’Neill roller up the third-base line with two outs and a runner on third in the top of the ninth inning was bobbled by Eduardo Escobar, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals’ left fielder to beat out the play to bring home the winning run in a 4-3 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.
“It was a really difficult play because O’Neill is a really good runner,” Escobar said. “I tried to attack the ball the best way that I could because if you stay back, he would’ve been safe. The best chance I had was to get after the ball and try to make a play there but I couldn’t make the play.”
St. Louis started the rally in the ninth after Branden Donovan, who led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball.
“Defense has been an asset and a strength for us and it will continue to be,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “[Escobar] was playing real deep on a dead sprint. One misstep against a guy who’s a plus runner, I’m not sure if he would’ve been out anyway. Escy’s played a good third base for us.”
The loss splits the doubleheader at Citi Field — the Mets taking the first game 3-1. Though added salt was poured onto proverbial wounds when they lost lead-off hitter and on-base extraordinaire Brandon Nimmo to an injury during the seventh inning after fouling a ball off his knee.
Showalter described it as a quad contusion and he will be day-to-day.
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and Francisco Lindor on first, a passed ball on a swinging third strike to Eduardo Escobar kept New York’s frame alive before Jeff McNeil slapped a game-tying single to left field of Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley.
It was the Mets’ first hit since the fourth inning when Escobar momentarily gave the Mets a 2-1 lead with a solo home run while it was Helsley’s first run allowed all season.
Two of the Mets’ three hits in the first seven innings were home runs. Mark Canha put New York ahead just two batters into the game when he lined his third home run of the season over the left-field wall against former Mets hurler Steven Matz.
The power numbers are finally coming around for Canha, who had gone his first 64 plate appearances of the season without a round-tripper. That blast was his third in just 38 plate appearances.
St. Louis found an equalizer in the fourth when the red-hot Paul Goldschmidt, who homered in the first game of the doubleheader, knocked an RBI double to score Brendan Donovan of starter Taijuan Walker.
Walker ran into further trouble when he put runners at the corner with one out, but he struck out Tyler O’Neill before getting Edmundo Sosa to ground out.
The Mets immediately re-delivered the lead back to their pitcher in the bottom of the fourth when Escobar went down and took a Matz changeup the other way and over the right-center-field wall for his second home run of the year — another solo shot.
But Walker gave it right back in the top half of the fifth when Tommy Edman socked an RBI triple to right field, scoring Andrew Knizner all the way from first.
Goldschmidt picked up his second double in as many innings to put the Cardinals up 3-2 before Walker got out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Corey Dickerson to line out to center.
Cardinals reliever Andre Pallante left the Mets in prime position to wipe away their deficit, walking the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning. But St. Louis called on Genesis Cabrera to get out of the jam, which he did, by striking out Escobar before Jeff McNeil popped the first pitch he saw up to third base.
The Mets lost Nimmo in the seventh inning after fouling a pitch off his knee. While he toughed out the rest of the at-bat and attempted to beat out a grounder short, he noticeably limped off the field and did not return.