An early bombardment of runs that included four home runs in the first inning alone — the decisive one coming in the form of a two-run shot from Eduardo Escobar — saw the Mets pull out a 6-3 victory in the opening heavyweight tilt of the 2022 Subway Series on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
The veteran third baseman’s round-tripper followed Starling Marte’s solo shot in the bottom of the first, providing a swift answer to an early Yankees assault.
Mets starter Taijuan Walker entered his first start of the second half having allowed just four home runs across his first 16 outings of the season in what was an All-Star-worthy run.
But home run issues from the past cropped up immediately as Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo — the second and third batters of the game — went back-to-back to put the Yankees up 2-0 in the first.
For Judge, it was his league-leading 38th home run of the season while Rizzo’s 23rd of the campaign was the Bronx Bombers’ 14th back-to-back spurt of 2022.
“I was just like, ‘man, it’s not off to a good start here,'” Walker said. “But we answered, the offense was really good.”
The Mets’ lineup, which had been stagnating of late, picked up their pitcher in a massive way, plating four in the first inning off Jordan Montgomery.
Marte lasered his 10th home run of the season just inside the left-field pole to halve the Mets’ deficit. It was followed up by a pair of doubles from Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso to tie it. For Alonso, it was his MLB-leading 83rd RBI of the season.
Two batters later, the Mets were up 4-2 when Escobar launched his 12th homer of the season out over the left-field wall to send Citi Field into an early frenzy.
“It was honestly like a World Series home run,” Escobar said. “I had never played in an environment like that.”
The Mets increased their lead to three when — following a Marte double — Francisco Lindor was plunked in the head by a Josh Donaldson throw to first after the star shortstop grounded to third. The ball rolled into right field allowing Marte to score from second and Lindor to advance a bag.
Montgomery wouldn’t make it out of the third inning, throwing 71 pitches before getting the hook from Aaron Boone with one out in the frame and runners on first and second.
The Yankees pulled one back in the second on DJ LeMahieu’s RBI groundout, but the Yankees left a golden opportunity on the table when — with the bases loaded — Rizzo flew a 3-0 sinker from Walker to the warning track of left-center field, which was caught by Brandon Nimmo with his back to the wall.
“I didn’t think he was going to swing,” Walker said. “He hit it pretty hard, but that’s just the way baseball works… I was able to get out of it with one run which was huge for us.
“After that fourth inning, I was able to settle in.”
Settle he did, as he set the Yankees down in order over the fifth and sixth innings to preserve the Mets’ bullpen. He allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out three on 101 pitches.
“He had nine, 10 days off, he was too strong,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “You saw his fastball at 97, 96… we were kidding around saying he should go to the batting cage and throw between innings… Once he settled in and you couple with that with the emotion of the fan’s energy tonight, you get out of yourself a little bit. As he got a little more himself, who he is, he got a little more of a feel for everything.
“The last two innings were his best.”
Adam Ottavino went 1.2 innings before allowing a walk to Aaron Hicks, prompting Showalter to call on his All-Star closer, Edwin Diaz, for a four-out save.
He breezed through Joey Gallo with a strikeout to get out of the eighth and got added insurance in the bottom of the frame when Jeff McNeil drove home Lindor with a two-out RBI single.
Despite giving up an infield hit and committing an error on what could have been a game-ending double play — the ball slipping out of his hand while throwing to second after Judge cued one to him — Diaz still struck out every Yankee he faced to save the night.
“We felt like we could get four outs out of him,” Showalter said. “It’s been an honor to watch him pitch this year.”