Walk-Off Wednesday in the NL East

Eduardo Escobar gets clutch walk-off
Frank Franklin II – AP Photo

Coming into Wednesday there was a two-way tie for first place in the National League East between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. With only seven games remaining for both teams each game holds an immense amount of weight. Both teams were involved in games on Wednesday that went into the 10th inning and resulted in a walk-off. The most important note is that they each came out on different sides of it.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves wrapped up their final series of September on the road against the Washington Nationals (54-101). Playing the worst team in all of baseball at this point in the season is an absolute gift for a team in the Braves’ position. After taking the first two games by a combined score of 16-2 they must have felt pretty good about the possibility of a sweep.

After giving up eight runs in each of the first two games the Nationals flipped the script. Nats Starter Josiah Gray put on quite the show. He went six innings allowing only two hits and one run, a solo home run by Matt Olson. This was Gray’s first time allowing one run or fewer since August 20. Also, it was his first time with six or more innings, two or fewer hits and one or fewer runs since June 18. It has been a rough September for Gray and he turned it around again one of the best teams in baseball.

Braves pitching also did an excellent job considering starter Jake Odorizzi only went 3.2 innings. This means seven different pitchers were needed to finish up the game. They certainly kept the Nats in check as the five pitchers used through regulation after Odorizzi exited were completely perfect allowing zero base runners.

Tight Finish

The game went into the 10th inning tied at two. The Braves had the chance to do damage with Ronald Acuna Jr., Dansby Swanson and Michael Harris II due up. Unfortunately, they had to go up against Kyle Finnegan, one of the few extremely reliable relievers the Nationals have. Finnegan got these three sluggers to fly out, ground out and pop out.

Looking to spoil the Braves’ day, CJ Abrams came to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs. On a two-strike pitch, Abrams poked a pitch out of the strike zone into right field for a walk-off single.

The Braves got some excellent pitching, but when it came time for those crucial timely hits they really struggled. They went 1-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

One of the biggest trends of the month for Atlanta has been one-run games. The best teams are able to come away with victories in close games. This loss made them 5-5 in such games in September. Sadly it has not gone their way lately as over the last eight games they are 1-3 in one-run games.

With the Mets playing later in the day the Braves hoped the Mets would falter too.

New York Mets

Like the Braves, the Mets’ final series of September came against a very weak divisional opponent in the Miami Marlins (64-91). This series however was only two games in length and Tuesday’s game saw the Marlins win 6-4, so the Mets needed a bounce-back game.

As the game progressed all signs pointed towards a Marlins series sweep. The game began with three scoreless innings. In the top of the fourth, the Marlins got a lead-off double before back-to-back ground outs. With two strikes Bryan De La Cruz smacked a go-ahead two-run homer.

The Marlins added insurance runs with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and a two-out RBI double in the seventh. This put the Marlins up 4-0 going into the bottom of the seventh.

It was not a massive lead, but it felt insurmountable the way Marlins starter Jesus Luzardo cruised through the first six innings. He allowed only two hits, and two walks while striking out six. The seventh was a much different experience for both teams.

Changing Tides

Jeff McNeil got the inning started with a lead-off single. It happened the be the first time the Mets got a lead-off man on. The very next batter was Eduardo Escobar who hammered a two-run homer to cut the lead in half.

The bottom of the eighth was the true turning point. The Marlins brought in reliever Tanner Scott who gifted the Mets with three walks to load the bases. With the bases filled and two outs, Escobar stepped to the plate in another big spot. In clutch time, Escobar shot a ball into right field for a game-tying two-run single.

The game went into the 10th inning tied at four. Mets reliever Drew Smith put the team in a great position to win after striking out two of the three batters he faced to keep the game tied.

In the bottom of the 10th, McNiel came up to bat with one out and the automatic runner at second. For some reason, the Marlins decided to intentionally walk McNiel to get to Escobar, the star of the game. Despite getting jammed, Escobar muscled a ball into left field for a walk-off RBI single.

What looked like an easy Marlins win turned into an incredible day for the Mets, especially Eduardo Escobar the man who brought home all five of the runs.

Even with a 3-5 day featuring five RBIs, this was not Escobar’s best game this season. Back on June 6th, he went 4-5 with six RBIs when he hit for the cycle against the San Diego Padres. Even more interesting, it was the second time this season that Escobar hit a walk-off single in the 10th to lead the Mets to a 5-4 victory. He did it against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 29.

The Braves failed to beat a bad team and the Mets took full advantage by winning in incredible comeback fashion. It was a matter of clutch late-game hitting and that made all the difference. The Mets now have a one-game lead in the NL East heading into the final two series of the regular season. As if the end of the season was not intense enough the next series is a battle between these two teams in Atlanta.

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