Shota Imanaga continues brilliant MLB start, shuts down Mets as Cubs win 1-0 with wild final out at plate

Shota Imanaga Cubs Mets
Chicago Cubs’ Shota Imanaga, of Japan, pitches during the second inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

QUEENS, N.Y. — The New York Mets’ bottom-of-the-ninth rally was squashed in true Mets fashion when Pete Alonso was thrown out at home by Cubs right-fielder Ian Happ while trying to score on a Jeff McNeil fly ball to preserve Chicago’s 1-0 victory on Wednesday night at Citi Field.

Home plate umpire Charlie Ramos initially called the play out at home and after a lengthy review, it was upheld despite Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya standing on top of home plate while receiving the throw which Mets manager Carlos Mendoza believed was a clear block, which is a violation.

“It was very clear that the guy had his left foot on top of the plate without the baseball,” Mendoza said. “I think they got the wrong call.”

With one out in the ninth, Cubs reliever Hector Neris hit Pete Alonso before JD Martinez’s deep fly ball to the right-center-field gap was dropped at the wall by a leaping Pete Crow-Armstrong to put runners at second and third for McNeil. The New York second baseman hit a routine fly ball down the left-field line that was caught by Happ, who rifled the ball toward home. It was cut off by Cubs third baseman Christopher Morel, who got it to Amaya in time for the bang-bang tag on Alonso, who appeared to beat the throw home, but his left hand never touched the plate.

“It’s really not up for me to decide,” Alonso said of the ruling. “I hustled as hard as I could. I made the best slide I could possibly make and the umpire said I was out, so I was out.”

Pete Alonso Cubs Mets
Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya celebrates as New York Mets’ Pete Alonso, center, reacts after being called out at home plate on a fly out by Jeff McNeil to end the baseball game, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in New York. The Cubs won 1-0. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Cubs starter Shota Imanaga continued to stupefy major league batters — the Mets being his next victim. The Japanese product that made the jump to the United States this winter limited the Mets (15-15) to just three hits across a season-high seven scoreless innings. Chicago has taken two of the first three games of this four-game set, limiting the Mets to one run or fewer in both of those victories.

In six starts in the majors, Imanaga is now 5-0 with a remarkable 0.78 ERA.

“He can pitch,” Mendoza said of the Cubs’ starter. “Fastball plays up, obviously the split is a pretty good pitch. Then he has that little hesitation and that quick pitch… it messed up our hitters’ timing… Overall, he was pretty good.”

He outdueled Mets starter Jose Butto, who went six strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits with six strikeouts and two walks. Despite collecting his third quality start out of five this season and lowering his ERA to 2.57, he found himself on the hook for the loss by the time of his departure.

“I felt fine attacking the hitters and doing what I could do,” Butto said. “I feel normal. Working day by day and I feel really good.”

The Cubs broke through in the fifth inning when Pete Crow-Armstrong’s sacrifice fly to right drove home Matt Mervis from third. The Chicago DH led the inning off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. 

Meanwhile, the Mets did not get a runner past second while Imanaga was on the mound. The southpaw appeared to get even stronger as the night went on, retiring the final seven batters he faced with three strikeouts during that span.

The Mets did get runners on first and second with one out in the eighth inning against Mark Leiter Jr. following a Brett Baty single and DJ Stewart walk, but Chicago reliever Yency Almonte struck out Tyrone Taylor and Starling Marte to get out of the jam. 

Mets star shortstop Francisco Lindor exited after the second inning because of flu-like symptoms, the team announced. He was replaced by Joey Wendle.

For more on the Mets, visit AMNY.com