Narrow Mets win presents tantalizing October formula

Narrow Mets win presents tantalizing October formula

NEW YORK — You could see pretty clearly from various points in the Mets’ 4-3 win over the Pirates on Friday night what all of this could look like in October. A solid starting pitching performance. A home run and a hit-and-run. Pinch runner Terrance Gore steals a base in a key spot. Edwin Díaz locks down a five-out stoppage.

If the Mets hope to not only earn a playoff berth but also progress deep into the playoffs, they’ll need those kinds of contributions — the smallest, the biggest — more often than not. And they’ll need it against some of the best teams in the National League.

While the Pirates may not fulfill that qualifier, Pittsburgh presented enough of a challenge for Friday’s win to stay competitive until the end, with quite a few import moments at Citi Field.

The Mets were already leading by a run in the fourth inning when Daniel Vogelbach stepped up to the plate and homered from the opposite field over the fence to left center. It was the first home run since Aug. 22 for Vogelbach, who made 54 plate appearances between them.

When the Mets acquired Vogelbach and Darin Ruf before the August 2 trade deadline, they imagined those two would be a strong enough field to rival some of the best designated hitters in the game. For a short while their vision came true, until Vogelbach and Ruf fell into a deep crisis in late August.

Recently, however, Vogelbach has reappeared, racking up three hits, two extra hits and four RBIs in his last two games against his former team, the Pirates. It’s not a big enough sample to proclaim Vogelbach, uh, back, but it’s certainly enough to give the Mets hope.

“Hitting is hard,” Vogelbach said. “I wish I had 20 homers in the last three weeks. You can always learn good, but you can really learn bad.

When the Mets ask Jeff McNeil to play right field, he says, there’s a brief period of adjustment — especially at Citi, which features one of the most bizarre wall alignments in the game. But anyone who watched McNeil on Friday would find it hard to believe that’s not his natural position.

With two men on base in the fifth inning of a one-run game, Oneil Cruz hit a high-flying ball that didn’t initially seem intended for the seats, but eventually pushed McNeil onto the warning trail. As the ball threatened to go just over McNeil’s head, he leapt to trap it, letting out a bit of emotion.

“At first I thought it was just a flying ball,” Cruz said. “I saw that he was still traveling, and then straight away I was like, ‘Oh man, this could come out. When I saw him rip it off, I was like, ‘Man, just a little more and I could have made a home run with that.'”

That wasn’t McNeil’s only notable take. On the last play of the game, Cal Mitchell hit a similar shot on the right, where McNeil had a little easier to settle under. Although Díaz thought that last bullet might have gone, McNeil got it back with no problem.

“For me, the outfield is really fun,” said McNeil, a natural second baseman. “The ball goes up in the air, I’m going to catch it. That’s all there really is to it.

Because the Mets had spent the previous two weeks tossing between losses and blowout wins, Díaz hadn’t seen a salvage opportunity in more than a fortnight when he relieved Mets starter Taijuan Walker with one out. in the eighth after Cruz hit a two-run homer. .

Díaz, getting used to the chances of saving multiple innings, had no problems for the rest of this inning. But in the ninth, after walking a first base, pinch runner Greg Allen appeared to steal second base. It was only after viewing the replay that the referees realized that Luis Guillorme had blocked the base with his leg, giving himself enough time to grab Tomás Nido’s throw and score Allen.

“I knew if I gave Guillorme a good chance to tag it was going to be really close,” Nido said. “I’m not surprised he managed to get away with it.”

Moments later, Díaz hit the final two outs to wrap up the Mets’ second straight win, dropping their magic number to clinch a playoff berth at 5.

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