Mets Hand Tribe Tough Defeat in Ten; Mets 4, Indians 3

The woes continued for Indians closer Brad Hand on Wednesday night as the New York Mets scored twice in the bottom of the tenth inning to stun the Cleveland Indians, 4-3.

For the third time in his last four appearances, Hand suffered a blown save. This one was a bit different than the others, however, as the Indians had just silenced the hometown crowd in the top half of the inning on a solo homer by Carlos Santana off of reliever Luis Avilan to take a 3-2 lead. The box score will show a Mets victory, but it was one key play and several questionable mental errors around the infield that led to a walk-off celebration for the home team.

Santana put the Indians up with two down in the tenth. Against the lefty Avilan, he caught a 2-2 changeup on the sixth pitch of his at bat and drove it over the wall in left for his 30th blast of the season and a 3-2 lead. Yasiel Puig struck out to end the inning.

Davis – Elsa/Getty Images

Hand came on for Nick Wittgren in the bottom of the tenth, looking for his 30th save and the Tribe’s 75th win, but a hot Mets lineup stood in his way. New York was aggressive early, as Amed Rosario doubled to right-center to start the inning. New Mets second baseman Joe Panik moved the tying run to third on a first pitch sacrifice for the first out. The dangerous Pete Alonso was intentionally walked, despite Hand being solid against right-handers this season and Alonso’s high strikeout tendencies (with three already on the stat sheet for the night). Two pitches later, the entire evening changed as Michael Conforto grounded to Santana at first. With plenty of time to cut down Rosario sprinting towards the plate, Santana instead looked to end the game. From the infield cut of the grass, he fired to second base, where Francisco Lindor got the force of Alonso for the second out. He wound up to throw back to first, but no one was at the bag and he had to eat the throw, allowing Rosario to score to tie the game on the missed double play attempt. Wilson Ramos reached on an infield single to move the winning run to second and J.D. Davis fouled off three straight 3-2 pitches before lacing the game-winning single to left to score Conforto in a 4-3 win.

On the play in question, neither Hand nor Kipnis were near the bag for the return throw. Hand was caught in no man’s land after falling towards third base on the pitch and freezing before moving towards the plate. Kipnis broke late towards first and could not get there in time. Santana was far enough off of the bag upon fielding the grounder that hustling back to the bag was no guarantee. Even had Santana fired to the plate to get Rosario instead of trying to turn two, the Mets still would have had Ramos coming to the plate with the tying run in scoring position while looking to extend his 14-game hitting streak.

Cleveland lost its second straight to drop to 74-53, missing a chance to pick up a game on the Minnesota Twins after they were shut out by the Chicago White Sox. New York improved to 66-60 with its fourth straight victory.

It was a quiet game in the early going as Marcus Stroman and Adam Plutko kept runners away from the plate in the first couple of innings. Stroman gave up a single in the first to Greg Allen and allowed three to reach in the second, but he got a double play to get rid of the first runner and got Plutko to ground out with Roberto Perez and Tyler Naquin on the bases after a two-out walk and a single, respectively.

Plutko retired the first six Mets hitters before the Tribe took its third trip to the box and got on the board. Lindor led things off with a single off of his American League All-Star teammate and he moved to third one out later on a double to right by Santana. Puig grounded the next pitch to third for the second out, but Lindor scored on the play to put the Indians up, 1-0. Jose Ramirez flied to right to strand Santana at second.

Plutko retired the side in order and got Rosario to start the fourth before he allowed his first base runners of the game. Panik singled with one out. Conforto walked after Alonso fouled out to Perez to put two on for Ramos, who grounded into a force at second.

Stroman left with a hamstring injury after four and was replaced by Jeurys Familia, who set down the Indians in order in the fifth.

Plutko ran into bigger troubles in the fifth as the Mets put up a pair. Davis flied to right before Todd Frazier singled to center. Juan Lagares doubled deep to right to score the Mets third baseman with the tying run. Luis Guillorme grabbed a bat for Familia and fell behind 1-2 before doubling deep to the right of center, scoring Lagares easily to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Plutko got Rosario and Panik on outs in the air to escape further damage.

Brad Brach entered for Familia in the sixth and promptly allowed the Indians to tie the game. Santana walked on four pitches for the dreaded leadoff walk. After throwing a fifth straight ball, Brach recovered to strike out Puig on the next three pitches. Ramirez stepped in and slapped a 1-1 pitch down into the left field corner, where Davis had trouble cleanly fielding the ball. Santana scored all the way from first while Ramirez split the wickets of Frazier with a head first slide into third just ahead of the tag for a game-tying RBI-triple. With a runner in scoring position again, the Indians failed to deliver as Brach got Kipnis to pop to second before striking out Perez.

Plutko ended his outing after six, retiring the final five in a row before he was lifted for pinch-hitter Franmil Reyes with one out in the seventh. With Naquin standing on first after a leadoff single against Justin Wilson, Reyes flied to right, Lindor struck out swinging, and Allen grounded into a force.

The Indians got good work out of the bullpen ahead of Hand. Nick Goody walked a pair with one down in the bottom of the seventh, but he stranded both runners by striking out pinch-hitter Rajai Davis and getting Rosario to fly to right. Oliver Perez, in his return to his former home in New York, gave up a single to Panik before striking out Alonso and Conforto. Adam Cimber got Ramos to ground out.

The Indians got the potential winning run to third in the ninth against Seth Lugo, but could not push him across. Kipnis singled to right on the sixth pitch of his at bat before he was sacrificed to second by Perez and moved over to third on a groundout by Naquin. Oscar Mercado stepped in for Cimber, but promptly grounded to first on the first pitch that he saw to leave a big runner at third.

Wittgren pitched a scoreless home half of the ninth to force extras, getting the first two on outs in the air on the right side before a single by Lagares. Pinch-hitter Aaron Altherr lofted the first pitch that he saw to Puig in right to force extra frames.

Santana – Elsa/Getty Images

Plutko gave the Indians a quality start and could have gone further than six had his turn at the plate not forced him out. After allowing just two runs on four hits with a walk and five strikeouts in six innings, he left with 85 pitches logged. Three innings of scoreless relief followed his start before the Mets rallied for two to win it in ten. Hand’s blown save was his fifth of the season and moved him to 6-4 on the season.

Stroman exited after the fourth inning, having allowed five hits and a walk in that stretch, but only one run to touch the plate. The Mets bullpen allowed two runs over six innings of work, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out five. Avilan, who allowed the Indians to take the lead on the two-out homer by Santana in the tenth, got the win to improve to 4-0 on the year.

Santana, Ramirez, and Naquin each had two-hit days for the Tribe. Santana scored two of the team’s three runs and also reached once via walk. The Mets had a pair of hits from Panik and Lagares, while Ramos needed ten innings to extend his hitting streak. Alonso struck out three times and fouled out prior to his intentional walk in the bottom of the tenth.

The Indians will look to avoid the sweep on Thursday night in the finale from Citi Field. Big right-hander Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.86 ERA) will go for the Mets in the 7:10 PM ET start, while the Indians will counter with rookie righty Aaron Civale (1-2, 1.50), who will look to make his fifth straight quality start to open his big league career.

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

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