– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEW YORK — Generating an atmosphere full of buzz well before first pitch, New York Mets fans poured onto Roosevelt Avenue on Friday to welcome the team’s newest pitching talent, one acquired before the trade deadline that, at the time, did create a number of quizzical looks on the faces of many of those same die-hard supporters just a couple of weeks ago.
By the end of the evening, the only question being asked amongst the Mets faithful was how long their team’s purple patch will last after, almost inarguably, New York’s most improbable and memorable regular-season victory in the brief history of Citi Field.
Todd Frazier hit a game-tying three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth before Michael Conforto ended proceedings with a walk-off RBI single a few batters later as New York stunned the Washington Nationals, 7-6, at Citi Field to extend their winning streak to seven games. The victory also pulled New York, who were 11 games below .500 at this time last month, to within 1.5 behind the Nationals for the first National League Wild Card spot and just a half-game behind Milwaukee for the second Wild Card position.
“It’s outstanding. I think that they believe in something, and they’re going after it,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after the game.”
The emotional rollercoaster the teams and fans went through over three hours and 20 minutes completely overshadowed the headline coming into the game: former Toronto Blue Jay and Long Island native Marcus Stroman was making his Mets debut on the mound, 12 days after his surprise trade to a Mets team that, at that time, sat six games under .500 and were viewed by many as potential trade deadline sellers.
Two weeks later, all are buying in to the Metropolitans, with their latest victory one for the record books. Almost all of the 39,602 spectators stayed around to see New York’s first win after trailing after eight innings this season after 44 consecutive defeats in such situations. Conforto’s walk-off marked the first time since Sept. 13, 2015 that the Mets won a game in which they trailed by three or more runs in the ninth or later.
“Today was probably the most fun I’ve had up here in the big leagues,” Conforto said. “What a game. To go down twice, to come back, to answer right back, it was special. The stadium was packed, it felt like the playoffs. The atmosphere…we fed off of that, we fed off each other, and I just happened to be the guy who was up last. I have faith that if any other guy in this clubhouse was up there, they were going to get the job done, too.”
Along with Frazier’s clout, Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis had back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to erase the Mets’ first deficit.
New York had just five hits in the first eight innings combined before collecting six in the ninth, all coming off of Nationals closer Sean Doolittle. Coming into the game after Washington scored a run in the top of the ninth to open a 6-3 lead, Doolittle gave up a double to J.D. Davis and a single to former National Wilson Ramos before Todd Frazier clobbered a 2-1 fastball just inside the left-field foul pole to tie the game and send Citi Field into raptures.
Before the cacophony of noise could die down even a sliver, the Mets immediately resumed their season-long torment of Doolittle. Another recent New York acquisition, infielder Joe Panik, singled to center after Frazier’s home run before being retired at second on a sacrifice bunt attempt Juan Lagares. It looked as if Doolittle would be able to navigate around further trouble after Jeff McNeil flied out to right for the second out, but Amed Rosario and Conforto followed with singles to cap the Mets’ epic rally.
Doolittle has allowed 19 runs in 48 2/3 innings on the season, with 10 of those runs and 16 hits allowed against the Mets. Three of Doolittle’s five blown saves this season have also come against New York.
“I wasn’t thinking about it at all until I was walking off the field,” Doolittle said about his previous difficulties against New York. “It wasn’t like I was coming in here looking to exorcise any demons or anything like that, but walking off the field with that same sick feeling, it was kind of surreal.”
The loss spoiled another quality start from Stephen Strasburg, who allowed three runs and four hits in seven innings. He was in line for the win after Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer with one out to break a 3-3 tie and give Washington its second lead of the game at 5-3. A wild pitch by Mets reliever Luis Avilán scored Trea Turner in the top of the ninth to give the Nationals a 6-3 advantage.
Stroman had his ups and down in his Mets debut but was able to get out of trouble on multiple occasions during his six innings of work, allowing four runs and nine hits while striking out nine Nats. Juan Soto teed off on Stroman with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his 22nd dinger of the season, part of a three-run frame for Washington that opened up the game’s scoring.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST photographer Arturo Holmes. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently eight pictures in total.