CINCINNATI — Buck Showalter ticked off the contributors to the Mets’ late-game success, taking care not to omit anyone from the list.
There was Dominic Smith, of course, whose RBI double in the 10th inning gave the Mets the lead for good in their 8-3 win over the Reds. There was Brandon Nimmo — not only for his three-run homer to break open the game at Great American Ball Park, but for his precision in directing Smith where to slide as he scored a key insurance run on a James McCann hit. There was Starling Marte, whose game-tying RBI double in the ninth gave the Mets a chance, and Adonis Medina, whose three scoreless innings of relief made everything possible.
Talk around the Mets in recent days has revolved around the club’s need for a bat before the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline. And while that may remain relevant, it’s important to remember that a singular anything — a bat, an arm, a glove — would represent nothing more than a cog in this machine. For it to function properly, the Mets don’t need a savior; they need contributors up and down their lineup. For the Mets to deliver late-inning knockouts as they have with regularity, they can’t rely on one or two names.
“If we’re able to do that, keep putting pressure, then we’ll bust some pipes,” Smith said.
It’s not as if the Mets have no history of this sort of thing. Earlier this year in Philadelphia, they scored seven times in the ninth to stun the Phillies. In St. Louis in April, they constructed a five-run ninth to shock the Cardinals. Wednesday was a five-run 10th for the Mets, who had scored three times over their previous 20 innings against a pitching staff that remains, statistically, the worst in Major League Baseball.
“I’m sure that felt good to the players,” Showalter said. “I know it felt good to the team.”
Unlike early this season, when the Mets ranked among baseball’s most productive teams with runners in scoring position, they had been struggling in that department for the better part of a month. It was lost to no one that their regression to the mean coincided with hot streaks for top prospects Francisco Álvarez and Mark Vientos, and that it occurred as the Trade Deadline began drawing close enough to see with a squint.
Mets players admitted to feeling some of that pressure, calling it frustrating to face a trio of Reds rookie pitchers — Hunter Greene on Monday, Nick Lodolo on Tuesday and Graham Ashcraft on Wednesday — with excellent stuff but little experience. Their recent track record offered few hints that they might be able to overcome David Peterson’s spotty return from the paternity list, which included five walks over 3 2/3 innings of three-run ball.
About the only unworried person was Peterson, who had seen enough of this team to note, “I figured we would make a run at some point.”
Moments after Peterson departed, Medina planted the seeds of a comeback when he struck out Brandon Drury to strand two men on base. It would be another five innings before the Mets could score additional runs of their own, but they continually pressured Ashcraft, rapping out 10 hits against him in six innings. Finally, in the ninth, Nimmo hit a one-out single and Marte followed with a grounder down the line, where he passed close enough to the bag for third-base umpire Alex MacKay to call it fair.
The game was tied, and the rest seemed inevitable.
Smith, who contributed a key two-run double in Monday’s victory, gave the Mets another lead with a one-out double in the 10th to plate the automatic runner from second base. McCann followed with a two-out single to score Smith, as Nimmo directed his teammate where to slide. Then Nimmo grabbed a bat himself and bashed the game to pieces.
“I know we’ve been struggling over the past week or so, but we’re just trying to put together quality at-bats, and do what we did earlier in the year, which is pass the baton to the next guy, and just have trust in each person behind us to get the job done,” Smith said. “I think tonight was a testament to that.”
Time will tell if it also might be the start of a renaissance for the offense. The Mets are under no delusions that a singular late-game rally might be a cure-all for what ails them. Team officials still understand the need for offense before the Deadline, in whatever form that might take.
But for a night, the Mets reminded everyone that their current state of affairs isn’t so bad, either.
“It’s a relief for them. It’s a relief for us,” Nimmo said. “It’s a game won, so everybody feels better about it at the end of the day.”