NEW YORK — At several points in the Mets’ 4-3 victory over the Pirates on Friday night, it was quite clear what this all could look like in October. A strong starting pitching performance. A home run and a hit and run. Pinch-runner Terrance Gore steals a base in an important spot. Edwin Díaz made a five out save.
If the Mets not only hope to earn a spot in the playoffs, but also want to get deep into the playoffs, they’re going to need these kinds of contributions — the small ones, the important ones — more often than not. And they will need them against some of the best teams in the National League.
While the Pirates may not make it to that qualification, Pittsburgh presented enough of a challenge for Friday’s win to remain competitive until the end, with quite a few import moments at Citi Field.
The Mets already led by a run in the fourth inning when Daniel Vogelbach stepped up to the plate and launched a homerun from the opposing field over the left-center fence. It was the first homerun since August 22 for Vogelbach, who batted 54 at bats between them.
When the Mets took over Vogelbach and Darin Ruf for the August 2 Trade Deadline, they envisioned that those two would form a powerful enough pack to rival some of the better designated batters in the game. Their vision was realized for a short time, until both Vogelbach and Ruf fell into deep troughs at the end of August.
Recently, however, Vogelbach resurfaced, with three hits, two extra-base hits and four RBI’s in his last two games against his former team, the Pirates. The sample size isn’t big enough to bring back Vogelbach, er, but it’s certainly enough to give the Mets hope.
“Slap is hard,” Vogelbach said. “I wish I had hit 20 home runs in the last three weeks. You can always learn from the good, but you can really learn from the bad.”
When the Mets ask Jeff McNeil to play on right field, he says, there’s a short period of adjustment, especially with Citi, which has one of the quirkier wall alignments in the game. But anyone who looked at McNeil on Friday would have a hard time believing that this isn’t his natural position.
With two bases on base in the fifth inning of a one-run game, Oneil Cruz hit a high flyout that initially didn’t seem to go down the ground, but eventually pushed McNeil into the warning lane. When the ball threatened to go right over McNeil’s head, he jumped up to catch it, releasing a little emotion in the process.
“At first I thought it was just a flying ball,” Cruz said. “I saw that it kept traveling, and then I immediately thought, ‘Oh man, that might go out.’ When I saw him yank it, I thought, ‘Man, just a little bit more and I could get a home run from that.'”
It wasn’t McNeil’s only notable catch. During the final game of the game, Cal Mitchell hit a similar shot to the right, where McNeil had a little easier time establishing himself below. Though Díaz thought the last ball might be off the bat, McNeil was able to get the ball in with no problem.
“The outfield is really fun for me,” said McNeil, a natural second baseman. “The ball goes up in the air, I’m going to catch it. That’s all that’s really going on.”
As the Mets had wavered between losses and wins for the past two weeks, Díaz had seen no save in more than a fortnight when he relieved Mets starter Taijuan Walker with one out in the eighth after Cruz hit a two-run home run. .
Díaz, who is getting used to making saves in multiple innings, had no problems for the rest of that inning. But in the ninth, after walking in the leadoff, pinch-runner Greg Allen appeared to steal second base. Only after consulting the replay did umpires realize that Luis Guillorme had blocked the base with his leg, giving him enough time to take Tomás Nido’s throw and tag Allen.
“I knew if I gave Guillorme a good shot at making a tag, it would be very close,” Nido said. “I’m not surprised, however, that he managed to get out.”
Moments later, Díaz grabbed the last two outs to round out the Mets’ second straight win, dropping their magic number and taking a playoff spot to 5.
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