Mike Back? -May 12, 2018-

Picture: Newsday

A trip to Cincinnati couldn’t cure the Mets of what ails them.

Surely, a visit to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia will do the trick. Right? Since 2012, the Mets are 40-17 in the city of brotherly love.

So far, so good. Though it did take some incredible late-inning heroics for the Mets to pull out the series opener.

Steven Matz got the start for the Mets, coming off a strong outing against the Colorado Rockies. Asdrubal Cabrera did hit a one-out double in the top of the 1st, but the Mets could not bring him home. So, Steven Matz would pitch the bottom of the inning without a lead. Just like in his start against the Rockies, he never would have a lead.

There were other similarities between this start and the one against Colorado. In both outings Matz gave up a homerun to the third batter he’d face in the first inning. On this night that batter was the National League’s leading hitter, Odubel Herrera.

There’s no getting around it. The Mets are in a terrible funk right now. Since their 11-1 start, they are 7-16. Just last week, the Mets were swept twice and lost a series to the worst team in the league, the Cincinnati Reds. That 1-0 lead the Phillies had after Herrera’s home run felt like 10-0.

Credit to Steven Matz for keeping it 1-0.

Matz’ line isn’t that impressive on paper. 1 run in 5 innings pitched. He allowed 5 hits and 4 walks, only striking out 3. The big takeaway from this game is how Steven Matz fought and battled to keep the Mets in the game.

Maybe Matz has some difficulty pitching out of the stretch. Maybe he has some Jon Niese in him. Whatever the case may be, Matz had a tendency this year to allow little things to snowball on him, resulting in huge innings for the opposing team.

In every inning the Phillies had base runners against Matz. Sure, he bent a little bit tonight, but did not break. That is a very encouraging sign. In the bottom of the 5th, which would be his last inning of work, Matz really had to fight.

The inning started with the opposing pitcher, Jake Arrieta drawing a walk. Cesar Hernandez lined out to right for the first out, but then Aaron Altherr was given a free pass. Odubel Herrera was next and he grounded into a force out, but the Mets could not turn the double play.

Phillies young slugger, Rhys Hoskins was hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded. Red hot Carlos Santana was next and the at bat did not get off to a promising start. Matz’ first 3 pitches weren’t even close. Santana took a 3-0 fastball, and then fouled off a 3-1 fastball which was nearly in the same place. Full count. Matz dealt an inside fastball to Santana who grounded out to Amed Rosario, and the inning was over.

Unfortunately, just like in Matz’ start against the Rockies, the Mets could not score. Over 7¹/³ innings of work, Jake Arrieta allowed 5 hits and 2 walks. He also struck out 5. The Mets had runners on in virtually every inning, but the big hit never came.

Fast forward to the 7th inning.

Michael Conforto walked, but then was erased after Devin Mesoraco hit into a double play. Jose Reyes pinch hit for the pitcher and singled. Mickey Callaway decided to send up the newly promoted Dominic Smith to hit for Amed Rosario. You kinda felt something in the air. Smith walked to the place and had to hide his smile. Could Smith be the hero?

No. Jose Reyes got picked off first base! Inconceivable. Reyes is absolutely reckless and doesn’t have the speed or talent he once did to make up for it. Smith had to be removed from the game as Reyes had to stay in and play shortstop. Please get Jose Reyes off the team.

The aforementioned Steven Matz kept the Mets in the game but he did leave early. The bullpen was up to the task. Seth Lugo and Paul Sewald both allowed a hit but worked around it. AJ Ramos, who gave up a walk off homerun in his last appearance, was great. He worked the 8th inning and was perfect, striking out a batter.

So it was 1-0 heading into the 9th inning. Philadelphia brought in their closer, Hector Neris.

Adrian Gonzalez led off and popped up to 3rd. Wilmer Flores was next and he singled to left. Luis Guillorme then made his major league debut, pinch running for Flores. That brought Michael Conforto to the plate. Conforto came into the game in an awful 8-53 slump. He did show signs of breaking out of it and Cincinnati, and was having a good night at the plate in the series opener.

Conforto smoked the second pitch down the right field line. It had homerun distance but hooked foul. The next pitch was in the dirt. Then this happened.

2-1 Mets! For a moment you were able to forget what a slump this team was in. Easily the biggest hit of the year in my opinion. But before you were able to celebrate this hit, Devin Mesoraco came up and this happened!

3-1! Jeurys Familia came in and pitched a perfect 9th to lock down the save.

This is the type of win that could really get the Mets going. With Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom slated to pitch the next two games, this could be the start of something special.

The Mets needed this desperately. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Going winless on a home stand, the missing offense, the Matt Harvey saga, Hansel Robles, DL scares, Jason Vargas, the catching situation etc.

To show you what a rut the Mets are in right now, they will now try to win their second straight game for the first time in a month!

The story of the night is obviously Michael Conforto. His display during batting practice and during the game makes me think he’s going to break out in a big way.

Yoenis Cespedes is clearly injured. I pray this isn’t a repeat of the last two seasons. We cannot afford to be without him for an extended period of time.

Devin Mesoraco has already provided more value than Matt Harvey has the last two seasons.

Let’s start a winning streak!