NEW YORK (AP) — Jeff McNeil launched a tying homer in the bottom of the ninth inning on his 29th birthday and the New York Mets were handed the winning run on a disputed hit by pitch for a bizarre 3-2 victory over the Miami Marlins in their home opener Thursday.
With the bases loaded and one out, a scuffling Michael Conforto appeared to stick out his right elbow pad just enough to get it grazed by a 1-2 breaking ball from closer Anthony Bass that looked to be in the strike zone.
Plate umpire and crew chief Ron Kulpa at first signaled strike, then quickly ruled Conforto was hit by the pitch. Conforto headed toward first base as Luis Guillorme scored and the Mets celebrated a comeback win in front of the first crowd at Citi Field in 557 days.
Marlins players and manager Don Mattingly argued with Kulpa before a replay review was initiated. The review lasted 58 seconds, and the call was upheld.
According to baseball rules, if a batter is hit by a pitch in the strike zone, the pitch should be called a strike.
According to replay rules, however, whether the pitch was in the strike zone or the batter made any attempt to get out of the way is not subject to video review. Those are umpire judgment calls. Only whether the ball touched the batter is reviewable.
The official explanation from the replay supervisor in Manhattan was this: “After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official definitively determined that the ball struck the batter. The call is confirmed, it is a hit by pitch.”
Edwin Diaz (1-0) worked a hitless inning in his first outing of the season.
Bass (0-2) has blown both his save chances with the Marlins (1-6) and lost both games. McNeil homered leading off the ninth, sending a 3-1 pitch into the second deck in right field. He tossed his bat aside and turned to the Mets’ bench before rounding the bases.
Moments later in the dugout, Pete Alonso revved up the sold-out crowd of 8,492, with capacity limited to 20% at Citi Field due to COVID-19 regulations, as the Mets rallied. Guillorme reached on a pinch-hit infield single with one out and advanced to third when Brandon Nimmo (three hits) laced his second double of the day.
Francisco Lindor, who went 1 for 3 in his home debut with the Mets, was intentionally walked to load the bases. A pumped-up Lindor gestured to spur on Conforto, who stranded nine runners while going 0 for 5 during Wednesday’s loss at Philadelphia and drew boos from the home fans when he grounded into an inning-ending double play in the seventh
New York had managed only four hits against four Marlins pitchers going into the ninth.
Corey Dickerson hit a tying double and Jesús Aguilar had a go-ahead single in the sixth against starter Taijuan Walker, who didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning of an impressive Mets debut.
Walker was charged with two runs and four hits in six innings. He struck out four.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, Starling Marte kept the Marlins close with a leaping catch at the center-field fence of Dominic Smith’s sacrifice fly.
Marlins: C Jorge Alfaro sat out with tightness in his left hamstring. With an open date Friday, Mattingly said the team wanted to give Alfaro consecutive days off in hopes of resolving the issue. Chad Wallach started at catcher for the second straight game.
Mets: RHP Dellin Betances went on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder impingement. New York selected RHP Trevor Hildenberger to the major league roster and added him to a bullpen that struggled during the first three games of the season in Philadelphia. … Jonathan Villar started at 3B for J.D. Davis, out of the lineup for the second consecutive day because of a bruised left hand. Davis exited Tuesday night’s game after getting hit in the hand by a 91 mph fastball. Mets manager Luis Rojas wasn’t sure if Davis would be available off the bench.
Marlins: LHP Trevor Rogers (0-1, 4.50 ERA), drafted 13th overall in 2017, takes the ball Saturday for his ninth career start. The 23-year-old Rogers made his big league debut at Citi Field last August and earned his only win there six days later. He allowed two runs over nine innings against the Mets last season, striking out 11.
Mets: With the day off Friday, the Mets are skipping a fifth starter and going back to ace Jacob deGrom on regular rest when the three-game series resumes Saturday. The two-time Cy Young Award winner fired six shutout innings in the delayed season opener Monday at Philadelphia, only to see the bullpen blow a two-run lead in New York’s 5-3 loss. In 26 career starts against Miami, deGrom is 10-8 with a 3.00 ERA. He has allowed no more than one run in 86 of his 184 major league starts (46.7%), the most since 1901 within a pitcher’s first 184 games.