NEW YORK Asdrubal Cabrera swung and instantly knew what had happened. He dropped the bat and threw his fists in the air as the crowd at Citi Field erupted, capping one of the New York Mets’ most dramatic and topsy-turvy games of the season.
In a game that featured blown leads, clutch hits, dramatic home runs and near-misses, Cabrera — baseball’s best hitter over the past 30 days — delivered the final blow with a game-ending three-run home in the bottom of the 11th inning in a 9-8 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Cabrera’s winning blast was the theatrical ending to a game that was rescued by Jose Reyes’ crowd-rousing two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. Lucas Duda nearly put an end to the seesaw affair when he drilled a fly ball down the right-field line in the 10th inning. But the ball veered foul by 2 feet.
In his second straight night of multi-inning appearances, Jeurys Familia again coughed up what appeared to be the losing runs. Phillies pinch-hitter A.J. Ellis, who carried a .195 average, dunked a go-ahead single into shallow right field in the top of the 11th inning that put the Phillies ahead, 7-6. Jim Henderson walked in another run after he relieved Familia.
The Mets entered the game in a three-way tie with the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League’s two wild-card playoff spots. The Mets were trying to rebound from a three-game sweep by the Atlanta Braves, and they took a one-run lead in the seventh when Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead double.
But Addison Reed served up a three-run homer to Maikel Franco in the eighth, putting the Phillies ahead, 6-4. It was the first time since Aug. 29 that Reed had allowed a run, and the first time since June 23 that he had allowed a homer, a span of 153 batters.
The Mets’ rotation must endure the final week and a half of the season without Steve Matz, who had a setback with his shoulder. Seth Lugo, the rookie revelation, tossed five innings Thursday but allowed back-to-back runs solo home runs to Ryan Howard and Cameron Rupp in the fifth inning that gave the Phillies a 3-2 lead.
Curtis Granderson had staked Lugo to a 2-0 lead in the second inning with his 29th home run of the season. Only Cespedes, with 30, has more home runs for the Mets.
Lugo left the game in the fifth inning, when manager Terry Collins sent up Ty Kelly as a pinch-hitter. Kelly drew a walk and moved to second on Cabrera’s two-out single.
That allowed Cespedes to go to bat. Entering Thursday’s game, Cespedes led major league hitters with at least 90 plate appearances with a 1.110 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handed pitching, and he slapped an outside 3-2 fastball to the right side for a game-tying RBI single.
The Mets’ season was resurrected when Jose Reyes, Cabrera and Cespedes returned from the disabled list. All three were in the lineup again for the first time on Aug. 19. Since then, the Mets have risen to the top of the wild-card race.
In the sixth inning, those three combined to give the Mets a lead. With two outs, Reyes drew a walk against Phillies reliever Michael Mariot. Cabrera then singled through the right side of the infield to put runners on the corners.
Cespedes pounced on the first pitch of his at-bat against Mariot, a slider down the middle of the plate, and drilled it into the left-field corner for a go-ahead double and a lead that the Mets could not maintain.
The brilliance of Reed, the Mets’ setup man, and Familia, the closer, has become something of a double-edged sword. They have been consistently good, and sometimes brilliant, so Collins has relied heavily on them.
Entering Thursday, Familia was tied for fifth in baseball with 73 appearances. Only Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres had more appearances than Reed’s 75. Reed’s previous career high was 68 games in 2013. Despite the workload, Reed has fresh because of the recovery plan he has employed between games.
But he faltered in the eighth, and Familia had problems in the 11th. Just when it seemed as if the Mets would lose their fourth straight game at a critical juncture of the season, Cabrera lifted the team’s spirits and playoff hopes.