Mets beat Orioles on another fielder’s choice RBI by Patrick Mazeika

The never-say-die Mets were alive and well for their fourth walk-off victory and sixth come-from-behind win of the season on Tuesday night.

Dominic Smith delivered the game-tying punch in the ninth inning, an RBI single to center that scored Kevin Pillar from second, and backup catcher Patrick Mazeika walked it off for the second time in five days in the Mets’ 3-2 win over the Orioles. Mazeika hit a fielder’s choice ground ball to first base and the throw home was late as the speedy Jonathan Villar swiped his hand across the plate for the game-winning run.

“We’re a relentless group and we’re very hungry,” Smith said. “We know it’s not always going to be smooth sailing, or a cake walk.”

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The Mets extended their six-game winning streak and improved to 17-13 as Mazeika, once again, was mobbed by his teammates at first base. Once again, his shirt was torn off in celebration. The rookie has three RBI, two of them walk-offs, and a walk in four plate appearances this season, but no hits. Mazeika said he received jeers from a couple of teammates for his ninth-inning ground ball on Tuesday, which wasn’t particularly hit hard and had an exit velocity of 64.9 mph.

“That one was special,” Mazeika said of his game-winning RBI fielder’s choice. “I didn’t expect to be in those spots, being so new to the team.”

Sure, there was a baseball game being played on Tuesday night. But the managers in each dugout might as well have been playing chess.

Marcus Stroman and John Means took a scoreless game into the seventh inning in a classic pitcher’s duel to open the two-game series. Stroman was spectacular, inducing ground balls and sat 13 of his last 14 batters down through six innings. Means, coming off a no-hitter against the Mariners, retired eight Mets in a row at one point and kept them off the board.

Stroman didn’t get the chance to leave it all on the field. He started the seventh allowing back-to-back no-out singles with a sacrifice bunt moving both runners into scoring position. Luis Rojas astutely had Stroman intentionally walk his fourth batter of the inning to force Orioles manager Brandon Hyde’s hand. Hyde decided not to let Means hit with the bases loaded and took him out of the game for pinch-hitter Pat Valaika. Only a moment later, Rojas took the ball from his starter, who was pitching a scoreless game.

“Stro, he’s such a competitor,” Rojas said. “He wanted to be in there.”

Stroman was outraged. He spent some time on the mound trying to convince Rojas he should stay in and face DJ Stewart. Despite his pleading, Rojas stood firm. Stroman walked off the hill shaking his head before yelling, pacing and kicking the wall in the dugout.

Rojas gave the ball to Aaron Loup with the bases loaded and one out. Loup allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly to right field. The inning ended with minimal damage and Stroman came out of the dugout to greet Loup and catcher James McCann.

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The Mets suffered multiple injuries in their 30th game of the season. Jeff McNeil, who singled in the first inning, ripped another single in the third that he tried converting into a double. He rounded first base and suddenly stopped running for the out at first. The Mets later announced he was dealing with “body cramps.” McNeil didn’t pull anything in his leg, per Rojas, and he was advised to hydrate on Tuesday night.

“He feels like he dodged a bullet just by pulling off,” Rojas said. “But he was cramping. He said it was all the way to his back that he felt the cramp.”

Fearless center fielder Albert Almora chased down a deep fly ball to start the eighth inning. As it so often does, the ball found its way into Almora’s glove before he crashed face-first into the wall and the ball fell out as Austin Hays logged a triple off Trevor May. Almora lay face-down on the warning track for several minutes as a trainer and Rojas spoke to him. Finally, he stood up and walked off the field on his power to underline what had been a terrifying moment.

In good news, the X-rays on Almora’s neck and shoulder came back negative. He was still dealing with posterior shoulder pain due to the impact. The Mets will continue evaluating and testing him on Wednesday.

“That was a lot scarier watching it and going out there and seeing him face down, a little blood in our trainer’s hand,” said Rojas. “My level of concern was really high at that point. But he got up by himself. He wanted to stay in the game. He tried to push, but there was no way after that collision with the wall.”

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