QUEENS — Mike Tauchman’s eighth-inning solo home run off reliever Drew Smith lifted the Chicago Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
Smith, who had gone seven straight outings without allowing a run, was taken out the other way over the left-center field fence with one out in the eighth of a 2-2 game after Cubs erased an early two-run deficit.
Much of that was thanks to Chicago starting pitcher Jameson Taillon and a befuddling cutter, which shut down the Mets (51-62) after allowing a first-inning two-run home run by the red-hot Pete Alonso. The former Yankee-turned-Cub went seven strong innings, allowing just three hits with seven strikeouts headlined by a stretch between the second and seventh innings in which he retired 16 batters in succession.
“I don’t want to get too technical, but it’s a ride cutter that you don’t see much,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said of Taillon’s pitch. “It’s a different look. When you hear people talk about a backup slider, it’s kind of an unusual pitch… It’s something that’s almost supposed to break like a cutter but it gains height.
“That presented an issue for us and we went quite a while without getting a hit.”
Mark Vientos ended the drought to lead off the eighth inning with a single off Cubs reliever Julian Merryweather. He moved to third on a Brandon Nimmo single but with two outs and the tying run 90 feet away, Jeff McNeil grounded out to end the inning.
For the Cubs (59-55), the win draws them back into a tie for the final National League Wild Card spot with their NL Central rivals, the Cincinnati Reds.
Alonso got the lone Mets consolation prize while continuing his powerful ways in the first inning, lining his third home run in his last five at-bats just over the orange line atop the center field wall. It was initially called double before a review confirmed the slugger’s 34th home run of the season.
The blast was also the 180th home run of the 28-year-old’s career, coming in his 635th game.
“It was just a strange at-bat. The reflection from the sun was glaring in my eyes off the glass in center field and I didn’t get a good look at the ball. I saw [Cody Bellinger] fielding the ball in center and I was like, ‘OK, there’s a double.’ And then as soon as I saw the replay, I was like, ‘OK, alright.'”
But that was all the Mets could muster against Taillon, who proceeded to retire 18 of the next 19 batters he faced through the seventh inning, including 16 in a row following an Omar Narvaez double in the second.
“He executed. He was throwing strikes, he was getting ahead early and expanding late,” Alonso said of Taillon. “He did a great job of controlling the damage throughout the course of the game and kept his pitch count down.”
Mets starter Carlos Carrasco allowed just one hit through his first three innings of work but was beaten by Cody Bellinger — who drove in both of the Cubs’ runs in Monday night’s loss — when the Chicago center fielder launched his 17th home run of the season into the right field seats in the fourth to halve the Mets’ deficit.
The Cubs tied it in the fifth when Yan Gomes doubled home Christopher Morel with no outs in what looked like would become an implosion inning for Carrasco. Instead, a bit of resourcefulness came in handy.
Fielding a comebacker from Nick Madrigal, Carrasco fired to third to just get Gomes in time. After striking out Mike Tauchman, the righty picked off Madrigal at first to end the inning and his night on a positive note.
Phil Bickford and Trevor Gott recorded scoreless frames in the sixth and seventh innings.