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Fundamentally Sound (Cubs-Mets; 06.15.21)

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akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

 

NEW YORK — Old habits die hard, and it was some of the habits that the New York Mets carried over from spring training into tonight’s game that helped them seal a thrilling win to continue their imperious form at Citi Field so far this season.

Luis Guillorme’s relay throw to home plate eliminated the tying run from scoring in the ninth inning as the Mets held on for a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, New York’s second straight win in the four-game series. Pete Alonso drove in all three run for the Mets while Taijuan Walker continued the Mets’ sterling performances on the mound by going seven innings and allowing only two runs and striking out 12 batters.

Seth Lugo went the final two innings to earn a two-inning save, but was bailed out after allowing a base hit into the right-centerfield gap to pinch hitter Erik Sogard with a runner on first and one out. On the play, pinch runner Jake Marisnick tried to score, but throws from center fielder Kevin Pillar and Guillorme found the glove of catcher James McCann, who tagged out a head-first-sliding Marisnick to cut down the tying run. Lugo then struck out Sergio Alcántara swinging to put a cap onto a thrilling finish.

“Cut-off and relays. We do those in spring training and we throw to the bases, but not like this,” said New York Mets manager Luis Rojas. “I’m happy that the guys maintained the fundamentals in a situation like that. [Mets second baseman Francisco] Lindor was telling Guillorme that the runner got sent, and we made the play. I’m proud of this team in carrying over the fundamentals and be able to make plays like this.”

Marisnick pinch-ran for Willson Contreras, whose single off Lugo in the ninth represented the Cubs’ first baserunner in the game since the fourth inning. The Cubs’ outage offensively, plus the bottom of the order up being up, surely played a role in third base coach Willie Harris giving Marisnick the green light upon making his way to third base, even though Marisnick was only about a third of the way towards home after Guillorme received Pillar’s throw from centerfield.

“If he’s safe, you’re not going to say it was a mistake. I err on the side of aggressive, and Willie is an aggressive coach,” said Cubs manager David Ross. “I thought it was a good send. It was a real heck of a play by Guillorme, throwing it home on one hop, and he made it easier than it really was.”

Walker once again proved that the flyer the Mets took on him in the offseason is turning into one of the steals of the season, as he struck out a career high 12 batters and allowed just five hits. After giving up a two-run home run to Javier Báez with one out in the third inning for the game’s first runs, Walker retired 14 of the next 15 Chicago hitters, including 12 in a row to finish his night.

In 68 innings pitched this season, Walker has allowed just 44 hits and recorded 72 strikeouts, with tonight’s performance improving his record to 6-2. Not bad for a player who only had one suitor for his services this past offseason.

“[The Mets’ contract] was the only offer I got, but I was excited signing with them,” Walker said. “I loved the signings that they made, and just connected well with everyone the first day I got here. I felt good with all my pitches last year, and I knew I was going to come in here and carry it over.”

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