NEW YORK — The final 10-game dash for a wild-card spot began in, well, wild fashion on Thursday night for the New York Mets. Now the Mets hope the baseball player equivalent of a wild card can get them another step closer to the playoffs on Friday.
Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa will become the second consecutive rookie starter for the Mets when he takes the mound in the second game of a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.
The Mets won the series opener in frantic fashion Thursday night, when Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th to give New York a 9-8 win. Jose Reyes hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings before closer Jeurys Familia was charged with two runs in the top of the 11th.
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The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Mets (81-72), who remained tied for the top National League wild-card spot with the San Francisco Giants, who beat the San Diego Padres, 2-1. The Mets and Giants are a half-game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals, who were idle on Thursday.
“We had a little get-together (before the game), talked about, hey, it's a 10-day season right now,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Best team gets in. So they went out tonight and as they showed, they were bound and determined to win the game.”
Ynoa, who is starting in place of injured left-hander Steven Matz, will look to author his second straight solid start. The 23-year-old allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings in his first major league start last Sunday, when the Mets beat the Minnesota Twins, 3-2.
This will be the eighth big league appearance for Ynoa, who made 134 minor league appearances dating back to 2010 before he was promoted to the Mets on DATE HERE. Ynoa went 12-5 with a 3.97 ERA this season for Triple-A Las Vegas in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
“It's a little different approach up here — if you throw strikes with your pitches, I think you (can have) success,” Collins said. “If you've got a 4.50 ERA in the Coast League, you're pitching pretty good.”
The Phillies will counter with right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who is coming off the finest effort of his career, a three-hit shutout last Saturday night in an 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins.
Despite being just 29 years old, Hellickson has served as a mentor in a rotation whose other four members are all rookies or second-year players. Hellickson's leadership could come in especially handy on Friday after the Phillies blew three leads in Thursday's loss.
“At this level, against a team like this or any major league team you can't make mistakes,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “You've got to throw quality pitches. And if you do, you're going to be successful. If you don't, you're going to get hurt. There's your learning experience.”
Ynoa has never faced the Phillies while Hellickson is 2-3 with a 7.58 ERA against the Mets. That is his highest ERA for any team he's faced more than twice.