Mets escape with win over Reds despite offense’s continued ineptitude

CINCINNATI — The Mets’ bats remained as cold as the early April weather, which means they needed to play nearly flawlessly in other phases of the game to have a chance. 

And that’s what they did, riding clutch pitching (particularly from Edwin Diaz) and defense (particularly from Brett Baty) to escape with a 3-2 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Friday, when a young Cincinnati team was burned more by its own mistakes. 

Jose Quintana was solid, the bullpen posted 3 ¹/₃ nerve-racking innings while letting up one unearned run and Baty played one of his best all-around games as a major leaguer, which enabled the Mets to scratch by on a night they finished with just four hits. 

The Mets (2-5) have scored 16 runs in their first seven games, the offense a continuing problem.

But Jeff McNeil may have broken through with an eighth-inning homer that provided a cushion that proved crucial, and the Mets played better defense than their counterparts. 

Edwin DÃaz #39 of the New York Mets yells as he reacts to striking out Jake Fraley #27 of the Cincinnati Reds to end the game at Great American Ball Park on April 05, 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Getty Images

“Games like this, where every play matters, every pitch,” manager Carlos Mendoza said after his second straight win. “I thought we made some big plays defensively.” 

The Reds did not.

The Mets’ go-ahead run came in the seventh inning against reliever Fernando Cruz, who issued three walks to load the bases with one out for Pete Alonso.

The slugger hit a chopper up the middle that should have been an inning-ending double play, but Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz could not get the ball out of his glove and tossed too late to second base.

Brett Baty celebrates after hitting an infield single in the first inning Friday. AP

Francisco Lindor beat the throw, enabling Harrison Bader to give the Mets a lead they did not surrender. 

The Reds found their way into danger, while the Mets kept pitching and fielding their way out. 

In the ninth, the Reds put the tying runners on base on an error from Diaz, who couldn’t come up with a check-swing comebacker from Jonathan India and walked Spencer Steer. 

Jose Quintana pitched into the sixth inning for the Mets against the Reds. Getty Images

Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit a grounder to Lindor, who did not flip to McNeil but instead ran to second base — and was beaten there by pinch-runner Bubba Thompson, the Mets only recording one out on the play. 

The Reds scored one off Diaz, but he struck out Jake Fraley to strand the tying run on third.

Diaz, in saving his first game since Oct. 4, 2022, pitched on consecutive days for the first time this season and pitched with real stress for the first time. 

“That’s good because my first couple outings, there was nobody on base,” said Diaz, who pitched with family in the stands and his brother, Alexis, in the opposing bullpen. “Today, tough situation, I controlled my emotions really good.” 

Such was the theme for the Mets, who kept dancing out of jams. In the sixth, Drew Smith inherited a two-on jam and got out of the inning unscathed.

An inning later, Smith put two on and gave the ball to Brooks Raley, who issued a walk to load the bases for De La Cruz.

New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (1) reacts after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

But Raley, too, played magician and dotted a sweeper to strike out De La Cruz. 

Adam Ottavino and Diaz’s work preserved one of Baty’s best games as a Met. 

As a batter, the cleanup hitter singled twice on a 2-for-4 night, collecting half the Mets’ hits. But his glove — a persistent question for the 24-year-old — was stronger than his bat. 

Twice Baty saved Quintana, the first time in the fifth inning of a tie game.

With two on and none out, Steer blasted a Quintana curveball that looked destined to be an extra-base hit that would score at least one run.

But Baty, a unique third baseman at 6-foot-3, used all of his height to spear the liner out of the air. 

“Oh my god, I thought it was amazing,” said Quintana, who allowed a run in 5 ²/₃ innings. “That’s a great play, I think it changed a whole inning.” 

Harrison Bader scored the Mets’ second run in the seventh inning of Friday’s game. USA TODAY NETWORK

An inning later, Baty showed off his mobility.

De La Cruz hit a soft grounder to the left side that prompted Baty to cut in front of Lindor, grab it and fire quickly to first base just ahead of the speedy young star. 

The Mets won a game by winning on the margins. 

“I’m just going to go out there and try to make every play I can make,” Baty said.

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