Tomas Nido has never been a threat at the plate during his sporadic, short MLB career.
Over four seasons, he hit just .193 in 243 at-bats, accruing five home runs and 26 RBI. Those are meager numbers, to say the least, for a backup catcher that’s used primarily for defense when he does get the call up to the majors — which was why he was batting eighth on Thursday afternoon.
For one day, though, Nido was Mike Piazza as he hit two home runs — including a grand slam — with a career-high six RBI in the Mets’ 8-2 victory Thursday afternoon over the Washington Nationals.
It was the first time in his career that he produced a multi-home-run game while becoming just the third hitter in Mets history to drive home at least six runs from the eighth spot in the lineup.
“It felt really good,” Nido said. “Any time I get the chance I just want to help the team win and do the best I can do out there, especially after the way the game started.”
His big day overshadowed rookie left-hander David Peterson’s successful start in which he allowed just one unearned run over five innings on one hit with three strikeouts on 74 pitches. That included going the first four innings without allowing a hit.
It was still plenty adventurous for him even while he posting zeroes in the hit column — and it started right from the beginning.
After a lead-off walk to Trea Turner, Adam Eaton’s attempted sacrifice bunt bounced mere inches in front of Nido, who tried to get the speedy Turner for the force out at second. Instead, he airmailed the throw, allowing Turner to go to third and Eaton to second.
After a walk to Starlin Castro to load the bases with no outs, Peterson struck out Juan Soto and gave up a hard grounder to Howie Kendrick that glanced off the southpaw’s leg on the mound. His only play was to first, which yielded the game’s first run.
The inning could have been much worse for the Mets on the scoreboard. After Peterson struck out Juan Soto, Asdrubal Cabrera sent a shot out to the left-center field wall, but McNeil made a superb catch milliseconds before crashing into the fence. He was forced to leave the game with a bone contusion in his left knee, but an x-ray and MRI came back negative.
“My first reaction was that was a hell of a catch and that it got us out of that tight jam,” Peterson said. “The defense is always solid behind us. A catch like that to get us out of a jam was huge.”
His play was invaluable for the Mets’ early chances, as they quickly tied things up when Dominic Smith went opposite-field in the second inning for a solo round-tripper.
It was his second home run in as many days and his team-leading fourth of the season. Even more impressively, he leads the team with 12 RBI despite having just 38 at-bats over the Mets’ first 19 games.
Things became heated in the bottom-of-the-third and into the fourth inning.
Pete Alonso struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the third, but drama came when Nationals pitcher Steven Strasburg — sitting behind the dugout — was thrown out for arguing that a 2-2 fastball was deemed low by home-plate umpire Carlos Torres. On the very next pitch, in the very same location, Alonso was called out on strikes to which the Mets bench erupted in protest.
Peterson then plunked Juan Soto in the middle of the back, to which the Nationals star stared down the Mets’ 6-foot-6 southpaw. While he thought better not to start a confrontation, the umpiring crew decided to formally warn both benches.
Peterson remained cool, though, and retired Kendrick and Cabrera via flyouts before striking out Carter Kieboom.
The Mets got Peterson the lead and the win in the bottom of the frame when Nido socked his first home run of the year into the left-field seats — a two-run shot following a double by Smith to make it 3-1.
Just moments after, Yan Gomes spoiled Peterson’s no-hit bid with a clean single to right field. It would be the only hit he allowed after retiring the next three batters and getting the hook after just 74 pitches.
Nido broke the game open in the fifth with a grand slam — his second home run of the day — off Nationals reliever Seth Romero, who was making his MLB debut, to put the Mets up 7-1.
The knock converted singles by Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso, and an Andres Gimenez two-out walk into runs as some timely two-out hitting begins to come around for the Mets.
“He’s been better this season. I know he worked in the offseason a lot with his approach,” Rojas said. “He’s been walking more, he’s been able to run into pitches like that because that’s what’s going to happen when you lay off more pitches.”
After Juan Soto hit his fifth home run in just his 28th at-bat off Jared Hughes in the sixth to pull one back for the Nationals, the Mets canceled it out in the eighth when Alonso drove home Billy Hamilton with a single.