Nick Plummer and Pete Alonso combine for the key game to victory


Nick Plummer and Pete Alonso combine for the key game to victory

NEW YORK — From his vantage point behind the first base bag, Pete Alonso didn’t have to see Brewer’s third base coach Jason Lane twirl his arm to know Hunter Renfroe was going home. Alonso didn’t have to hear the Citi Field crowd up their collective volume in anticipation of a game at the plate. The Mets’ pre-series scouting reports had ranked the Brewers as one of MLB’s most aggressive baserunning teams. Alonso knew that. He’d also seen enough of Renfroe’s speed and trajectory to understand that he wasn’t going to stop.

When Nick Plummer finally got the ball over the right field line and fired at Alonso, the Mets first baseman was ready to go through the basic rhythm of catch, cock, and throw. His relay came in time for catcher Tomás Nido to tag Renfroe and reduce the potential tie in the ninth inning of the Mets’ 5-4 win.

“You have to go,” Alonso said of the Brewers. “With our closer to the mound and a ball that banged down the line which took a little time to get to, they have to go for them.”

The closer, Edwin Díaz, certainly played a role in Lane’s decision. Nobody in baseball knocks out bats at a higher rate than Díaz, who the Mets subpoenaed to defend a one-run lead in the ninth. Teams that hit Díaz generally do so in two ways: either by creating a space for a homer, or by lining up pieces of soft contact.

The Brewers chose the latter strategy, opening the ninth with a softly hit Renfroe single. Two batters later, pinch-hitter Tyrone Taylor blooped another ball into shallow right field, where both Plummer and Alonso sprinted toward it. Plummer arrived first and pitched the ball around the same time Lane decided to send Renfroe home.

When the dust settled, the Brewers found themselves with one man first with two outs against one of the game’s best closers, rather than two men in goal position with one out.

“I absolutely think it was the right call,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who also cited Plummer’s arm strength as a reason for the posting. [Díaz] is not easy to beat against. He knocks out almost 50% of clubs.”

Officially, the total after Thursday’s game, in which Díaz made his 13th save from 16 chances, was 48%. After the game on the plate, manager Buck Showalter came to the mound to ask Díaz if he wanted to face former National League MVP Christian Yelich with two outs or purposely lead him to Willy Adames. Díaz chose Yelich, beating him three places to end things.

“I don’t like to go for walks,” Díaz said. “I trusted my things.”

Among the Mets players, Díaz was one of the few surprised that the Brewers sent Renfroe. He viewed it as a stroke of luck, when in reality it was continued proof that this Mets team was excellent at exploiting other clubs’ mistakes. Give the Mets an inch and they will walk away with a win, as they proved when they went from behind to win for the 16th time this season.

While individual problems continue to pile up against the Mets — on Thursday they lost starting pitcher Tylor Megill to a shoulder injury and third baseman Eduardo Escobar to an unknown problem — the team is finding ways to win. That the Mets have ceded six games overall in the past two weeks has far less to do with them than it does with the Braves, who have remained unsustainably hot throughout a 14-game winning streak.

On Thursday, New York’s comeback included a double homer from Mark Canha, a Plummer go-ahead fielder and a 9-3-2 relay to quell whatever momentum the Brewers had left.

“Luckily everyone was in line,” Plummer said. “I did a long jump to Pete and Pete made a good throw. Slightly unconventional relay, but it worked.”

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