When Mets third baseman Todd Frazier stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning on Sunday at Citi Field, he took note of the Tigers’ defensive shift.
There was one out, and the Mets, who were trailing, 3-0, had runners at first and third. Three Detroit infielders occupied the left side of the infield. Only a first baseman was on the right.
Frazier decided that he would bunt if the opportunity presented itself, Detroit’s starting pitcher, Spencer Turnbull, threw him a fastball away on his first offering. Frazier pounced with his hands choked up on the bat, pushing a bunt through the hole into right field, driving in Dominic Smith. The ball rolled so far that Wilson Ramos, a catcher whose speed could be measured with dripping molasses, went from first to third.
“Buffalo even made it to third, so I guess it was that good of a bunt,” Frazier said, using Ramos’s affectionate nickname.
Frazier’s effort proved to be a catalyst. Two batters later, second baseman Adeiny Hechavarria homered to right field for his second blast in three days. That was all the Mets needed as they won, 4-3, concluding a homestand with a 6-1 record before heading west for a series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Let’s keep on rolling,” Frazier said.
The Mets are using any means necessary to get by despite injuries to starters like Robinson Cano (quadriceps), Jeff McNeil (hamstring) and Brandon Nimmo (neck). Michael Conforto returned from a concussion on Sunday, and reached base when he was hit by a pitch. The reserves, though, have allowed the Mets to rally.
“Our depth kept things from spiraling out of control,” Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said.
The latest close win meant a return to .500 for the Mets, as well. Now 26-26 with Jacob deGrom, the defending Cy Young Award winner in the National League, set to square with Clayton Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young winner, on Memorial Day, Callaway and his players recognized the need to maintain momentum.
Throughout the week, call-ups from the minor leagues and other recent additions took star turns. Rajai Davis, Carlos Gomez and Hechavarria each hit home runs that kept the Mets in games or won games for them outright.
“I’m not a power hitter, but those happened to go out,” Hechavarria said. “It’s important for us to contribute. I don’t care if it’s hitting, or running or making a defensive play coming off the bench, I’m here to help the team.”
Zack Wheeler (4-3) also proved capable of steadying himself after a rocky start early on. In the first inning, he surrendered a home run to Nicholas Castellanos and allowed the Tigers to stitch together three singles for another two runs in the third. Wheeler settled down to collect 13 consecutive outs before being taken out in the eighth inning. He struck out eight and limited the Tigers to five hits.
“When you get down three runs, your job is just to keep on battling, making sure they don’t add anymore,” Callaway said, “and he did that today.”
Callaway noted that Wheeler’s long start was necessary because of the strain on the bullpen in recent days and “all the craziness that’s been going on.”
That craziness has come in a variety of forms. The comedian John Oliver wore a Mets hat as he sat in a front-row seat by the visitors’ on-deck circle on Sunday, and the Mets experienced enough in the last seven days to fill an episode of his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.”
If it wasn’t the speculation about Callaway’s job status, it was outfielder Yoenis Cespedes fracturing his right ankle at his ranch, only for the team to clarify that he had not fallen off a horse. Two wins came in walk-off fashion and resulted in difference makers being doused with ice buckets.
“If we’re rolling without those guys, it’s going to be that much more fun when they get back in the lineup,” Smith said. “Fun week. Awesome week.”
Success has been fleeting in Queens, though. On Wednesday, Davis, who is in his 19th season, was called up just hours before the Mets took on the Washington Nationals. He arrived during the third inning, hit a three-run homer in the eighth and was designated for assignment on Sunday morning.
Davis proceeded to pack his locker’s contents and embrace teammates in the clubhouse before making his way to a family cookout in Norwich, Conn. He expressed a willingness to report to Class AAA Syracuse if he clears the waiver process in coming days, and Callaway noted that the organization hoped that was the case, as well.
The Mets needed to move on quickly, though, as they readied for their own long journey after the win. Looking around the clubhouse afterward, Wheeler knew the team needed to take its winning ways west.
“We’ve got to bear down and try to win this road trip,” he said.
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