NEW YORK — From his vantage point beyond the first base sack, Pete Alonso didn’t need to see Brewers third base coach Jason Lane spin his arm to know Hunter Renfroe would be heading home. Alonso didn’t need to hear the Citi Field crowd turn up their collective volume in anticipation of a home plate game. Mets pre-series scouting reports had ranked the Brewers as one of the most aggressive base running teams in MLB. Alonso knew it. He had also glimpsed Renfroe’s speed and trajectory enough to know that he would not stop.
So when Nick Plummer finally got the ball back on the right-field line and shot Alonso, the Mets first baseman was ready to push through the fundamental catch-cock-and-throw cadence. His stint came in time for catcher Tomás Nido to apply the tag on Renfroe, reducing the potential ninth-inning tying run of the Mets’ 5-4 win.
“They have to go,” Alonso said of the Brewers. “With our closest on the mound and a ball hit on the line that took a little while to arrive, for them they have to go.”
The closest, Edwin Díaz, certainly factored into Lane’s decision. No one in baseball hits batters faster than Díaz, who the Mets called up to protect a one-run lead in the ninth. Teams that beat Díaz usually do so in one of two ways: either by balancing a pitch for a home run, or by stringing together pieces of soft contact.
The Brewers opted for the latter strategy, opening the ninth with a softly hit Renfroe single. Two hitters later, pincher Tyrone Taylor threw another ball into shallow right field, where Plummer and Alonso sprinted towards him. Plummer got there first, kicking the ball around the same time Lane decided to head Renfroe home.
When the dust settled, the Brewers found themselves with a man in the front row with two outs against one of the best shooters in the game, rather than two men in position to score with one out.
“I absolutely think it was the right call,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who also cited Plummer’s arm strength as the reason for the sending off. [Díaz] is not easy to get shots against. He retires almost 50% of batters.
Officially, the total was 48% after Thursday’s game, in which Díaz recorded his 13th save in 16 occasions. After the game at home plate, manager Buck Showalter came to the mound to ask Díaz if he wanted to face former National League MVP Christian Yelich with two outs, or intentionally walk him to get to Willy Adames. Díaz picked Yelich, hitting him three-pitch to end things.
“I don’t like walking guys,” Díaz said. “I trusted my stuff.”
Of the Mets players, Díaz was one of the only surprises the Brewers sent Renfroe. He saw it as luck, although in reality, it was continuing proof that this Mets team excels at taking advantage of other clubs’ mistakes. Give the Mets a thumbs up and they’ll earn a win, as they demonstrated by coming from behind to win for the 16th time this season.
Even as individual issues continue to pile up against the Mets — on Thursday they lost starting pitcher Tylor Megill to a shoulder injury and third baseman Eduardo Escobar to an undisclosed issue — the team finds ways to win. That the Mets have dropped six games in the standings over the past two weeks has far less to do with them than with the Braves, who have remained unsustainably hot throughout a 14-game winning streak.
Thursday’s New York comeback included a two-run homer from Mark Canha, an outfielder choice Plummer and a 9-3-2 stint to stifle the momentum left by the Brewers.
“Luckily everyone was online,” Plummer said. “I took a long jump to Pete, and Pete had a good throw. Kind of an unconventional relay, but it worked.