Jonathan Villar finally came up with the big hit the New York Mets had been starving for, delivering an opposite-field single to left field to walk off a 4-3 Mets extra-inning victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the first leg of their seven-inning doubleheader on Tuesday evening.
The Phillies took the lead in the eighth inning off Trevor May when Didi Gregorius’ infield RBI single scored Andrew McCutchen — who started the extra frame automatically on second base due to MLB’s extra-inning rules. Both he and the intentionally walked Bryce Harper were able to move up a base on a James McCann passed ball to score on Gregorius’ grounder that barely found outfield grass before nestling in Francisco Lindor’s glove
Pete Alonso led off the bottom of the eighth with a single to drive in Lindor from second to tie the game.
While he was eliminated at second on a Jeff McNeil fielder’s choice, a Michael Conforto walk and McCann infield single loaded the bases for Villar — who was called upon an inning earlier as a defensive replacement — with one out.
“That was good to get two hits there,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “It’s good to see big hits in those moments even if we didn’t get them for most of the game. That at-bat by Villar, who is known to be a free swinger, that wasn’t an easy at-bat.”
It provided a happy Mets recap for another outing that saw New York leave the base paths full on multiple occasions.
Luis Guillorme, who was replaced by Villar in the seventh and went 1-for-1 with two walks, led the seventh off with his second free pass of the day before pinch-hitter Kevin Pillar was hit by a pitch.
But in now-typical Mets fashion, strikeouts from Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith sandwiched a Lindor flyout to ensure the Mets came up empty once again in a big spot.
Smith, who was taking over for Conforto in the No. 3 spot, made a solid first impression in his first game near the top of the lineup. Following a lead-off Nimmo walk in the bottom of the first — his seventh in five games — Smith rocketed the first pitch from Chase Anderson over the right-field fence to give the Mets a quick 2-0 lead.
It was his second home run of the year; the first also coming off Anderson last week in Philadelphia.
After making quick work in the first, Mets starter Taijuan Walker labored in the second as the Phillies scratched one across to halve the Mets’ deficit. An Alec Bohm lead-off double set the table for an Andrew Knapp sacrifice fly.
Walker got back on track in the third, striking out the side to up his count to seven on the day at that point — just four punchouts from tying a career-best 11.
He’d get only one more for the rest of the night, getting the hook with one out in the fifth after walking two straight batters.
In stepped Miguel Castro, who struck out Andrew McCutchen before Phillies speedster Roman Quinn was caught stealing at third base to end the inning. The throw from James McCann was high, but a leaping Luis Guillorme was able to wrangle it in before getting a tag on Quinn as he fell off the bag.
“That was a game-changer,” Rojas said. “That ball could’ve gone down the left-field line and another run could’ve scored. He came down and was able to find Quinn when he was off the bag. That was a tremendous play.”
Philadelphia would tie it up in the sixth when Jean Segura beat out a slow roller with runners at the corner and two outs.
Phillies reliever Jose Alvarado heightened tensions in the sixth inning when he hit Conforto high in the shoulder moments after skimming his head with a high and tight fastball.
While the Mets bench chirped at the Phillies’ reliever, no warnings were put forth.