The New York Mets came into Wednesday's home contest against the Tampa Bay Rays having lost the opener of the series and, before that, having dropped nine of 13 during a stretch in which they played the Tigers, Rockies, Reds, and Nationals. The Rays, meantime, were an MLB-best 32-11.
Despite recent trends and an opponent that has been far better thus far, the Mets pulled off a thrilling 8-7 win in extras, much to the delight/relief of owner Steve Cohen:
That game was like a classic boxing match. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting game. We needed that win— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) May 18, 2023
For much of the night, it seemed that expectations would be met. The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the fourth off Kodai Senga, who struck out 12 in six innings. They went up 2-0 in the seventh on Jose Siri's solo homer, leaving the Mets with just an 18.2% chance of prevailing in the game, according to basic win expectancy. Then, however, in the home half of the seventh, power-hitting infield prospect Mark Vientos, , came up big with a man on against Ryan Thompson:
Undaunted, the Rays broke the new tie in the eighth and tacked on a pair of additional runs in the top of the ninth to take a 5-2 lead. Then in the bottom half, ballyhooed rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez came to the plate with two on and two out:
The instant before Alvarez parked that hanging breaking ball from Rays closer Jason Adam, the Mets had a 3.8% chance of winning the game. After it landed some 426 feet away, the Mets had a 53.1% chance of winning.
In the 10th, the Rays got a pair of RBI singles to retake the lead, this time by a tally of 7-5. In the home half, though, Jeff McNeil's single plus the automatic runner brought up stalwart slugger Pete Alonso with one out and representing the winning run. Here's the 0-1 fastball from Pete Fairbanks:
That 416-footer is Alonso's MLB-leading 15th of the season. When he stepped in, the Mets had a 19.5% chance of winning the game, and Alonso swiftly upped that figure to, yes, 100%.
Even after the white-knuckled win, the Mets are two games under .500 in this season of high expectations, but this one was sorely needed. To the extent that momentum even exists in a sport like baseball, the Mets may have a little of it for the first time in a while.