NEW YORK — The future is stretched out before the Mets, and it’s clear to see: one at the plate, one in the dugout circle, one near the dugout waiting for their turn to pitch. The Mets trailed the best team in baseball by three runs in the ninth, but at least they had some hope. At least they had the children.
First up was Brett Baty, one of the organization’s top prospects and a spark for the club throughout his first season. He hit him. Next up was Mark Vientos, the story of the day, who woke up in Syracuse, New York, but arrived in Queens to hit a two-run homer in the seventh. He flew out.
That has largely been a struggle since he named Francisco Alvarez, the company’s superintendent. Not only in this case. Alvarez launched a game-tying, three-run homer off Jason Adams in the 10th inning on Pete Alonso’s three-run homer to give the Mets a walk-off steal, 8-7.
“Three homers to finish is something out of a movie,” Kodai Senga said of pitcher Hiro Fujiwara.
If you were a screenwriter to write such an ending, you might have dismissed the first of those Homers as a bit too cliche. On his first night back in the majors, Vientos crushed a game ball to straightaway center field in the seventh that forced the organization into a call. But the joy of that homer was short-lived, as the Rays — known for their relentless brand of power — built another three-run lead heading into the ninth.
At that point, the rest of the paying crowd of 29,695 at Citi Field went back to their usual boos — at least until Adam made his first two free throws in the first inning. The next children were: Bati, Vientos and Alvarez respectively.
At Syracuse, the three tended to hit in a row, which led them to repeatedly announce that if one couldn’t get the job done, it would be the next turn. And Alvarez steeled himself as Batty and Vientos recorded another loss to bring the Mets to a whisper. He thought back to his first week in the majors a month ago, when Padres closer Josh Hader threw a fastball over the strike zone that sent him into a desperation strikeout. Alvarez promises to make this result different.
Fortunately, Adam Hader had a chance he missed, throwing a sweeper in the heart of the zone. After Alvarez drilled a 426-foot drive from the front of the left-field second base, he took a few steps toward first base, yelled, then thundered his bat through the air.
“If I told him [Baty and Vientos] I can’t do it, I want the chance to do it,” he said through interpreter Alan Suriel. “And I was able to do it.”
Finally, it was Alonso’s turn after the Rays scored twice in the 10th to put New York on the brink again. When he stepped up to the plate in the 10th, the first baseman’s walk-on credentials were already in full view, but this time he faced an additional challenge: a sinus infection so severe that Alonso slept in a separate bedroom from his wife. To reduce the risk of infection. Still, Alonso’s mantra is “If I can physically, I’m going to go out there,” so he told Buck Showalter to forget any thoughts his manager might have.
Alonso hit his fourth career homer of the night, matching five others in Mets history. Three of his four walks came in extra innings, tying a franchise record.
“It’s just a sad time to be Little Pete,” said Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks.
As Alonso rounded the bases, his teammates poured out of the dugout in what felt and felt like catharsis. All season, the Mets have waited for a moment like this after experiencing so much last summer. They’ve been looking for a spark all season.
Finally, on Wednesday, the smallest of them presented.
“It’s always exciting when you see a young person come through who wants to succeed and make an impact,” Alonso said. “They really made a big impact for us tonight.”