Bautista’s winning slam could invigorate Mets vs. Rays
The Mets will hope Bautista’s long-awaited walk-off on Friday propels them to a rare winning streak on Saturday afternoon at Citi Field when they host the Tampa Bay Rays in the middle game of a three-game series.
Bautista made his first walk-off homer a particularly memorable one when his grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning lifted the Mets to a 5-1 win in the series opener.
“I guess sometimes it just takes awhile,” said Bautista, whose 336 homers without a walk-off before Friday were the most among active players.
The 37-year-old Bautista has proved to be a rare bright spot for the struggling Mets (35-49) by hitting .255 with four homers, 18 RBIs and a .432 on-base percentage since signing with New York on May 22, hours after he was released by the Atlanta Braves. He hit just .143 with two homers and five RBIs in 12 games for Atlanta.
“Top-tier production out of a guy that we got from Atlanta, who let him go, so that (performance is) surprising,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Friday night. “Now the guy himself, who has the body of a 25-year-old (and) stays in shape? Can never count those guys out. He’s been playing for a long time, had a lot of success.”
Success has been hard to come by for the Mets, especially at home, where they haven’t won consecutive games since a four-game winning streak from May 18 to May 21. New York is 3-15 in its last 18 games at Citi Field.
The task won’t be easy Saturday when Snell looks to continue his breakout season for the Rays (43-44) and further bolster his case for drawing the start for the American League in the All-Star Game on July 17.
Snell has limited opposing batters to a .179 average, the lowest in the AL. He is tied for second in the the league in wins and ranks third in ERA.
Snell has been particularly dominant in winning his last three starts, a stretch in which he has allowed just two runs in 21 1/3 innings while striking out 26 and allowing 20 baserunners. He surrendered one run and struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings in beating the Houston Astros on Sunday.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said the success has emboldened Snell, who entered the seasons with just 11 wins and a 3.83 ERA in 43 career starts.
“We all know how talented he is and the stuff that he features — there aren’t many guys in baseball, 6-foot-5 left-handers that throw that hard — but the consistency has been probably the most eye-popping of all of it,” Cash said. “And I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons that go into that. But once he got some confidence and realized how talented he is, I think it carries over from start to start.”
Snell has never faced the Mets, though he did pitch at Citi Field as a member of the “home” team last Sept. 12. In that game, he allowed one run and two hits in five innings for the Rays against the New York Yankees in a game relocated to Citi Field because of Hurricane Irma’s impact on the Tampa Bay area.
Matz also picked up the win in his most recent start Sunday when he gave up an unearned run in 5 1/3 innings as the Mets beat the Miami Marlins 5-2. He has never faced the Rays.