Mets rally, hold off Cubs 4-3 to stop skid in NLCS rematch
NEW YORK (AP) A streak or two of celebration whipped cream was still stuck in Brandon Nimmo's hairline as he peeled off his baseball socks in the clubhouse Thursday night.
Plenty of time to clean up, the Mets rookie figured. For now, he just wanted to hang onto this feeling.
Yoenis Cespedes socked a colossal home run , Jeurys Familia pitched out of a huge jam in the ninth inning and Nimmo keyed a three-run rally in the seventh that sent New York past the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in their first meeting since last year's NL Championship Series.
''I'm just ecstatic,'' Nimmo said after his first big league home game. ''I'm just overjoyed and so thankful right now.''
Chicago put runners on second and third with no outs against Familia, who got two strikeouts and a bases-loaded popup for his 27th save, most in the majors.
He screamed and pumped his arms repeatedly after Javier Baez popped up to end it.
''I think our last three at-bats were a little bit too anxious,'' said Kris Bryant, who fanned for the first out in the ninth. ''But he's supposed to do that. That's why he's the closer on their team.''
Baez's throwing error at second base allowed Nimmo to score the go-ahead run, and the Mets overcame a 3-0 deficit to stop their four-game slide.
New York, which swept Chicago last October to reach the World Series, had lost nine straight regular-season games to the Cubs dating to August 2014.
''We made one mistake on defense, but otherwise it was a pretty good game of baseball,'' Chicago manager Joe Maddon said.
Bryant hit a two-run homer for the major league-best Cubs. Baez added a solo shot off rookie Steven Matz before a scuffling Mets lineup finally pushed back in the opener of a four-game series between banged-up teams.
Cespedes launched a solo drive off John Lackey in the sixth that soared into the third deck in left field, two or three rows deep. The ball came off the bat at 110 mph and would have traveled 441 feet unimpeded, according to MLB's Statcast. ESPN Stats & Info had it at 466 feet.
Either way, it was thought to be the first home run to reach the third deck at Citi Field, which opened in 2009.
That's not unfamiliar territory to Cespedes, though. He sent several shots up there three years ago – while winning the All-Star Home Run Derby.
''I think it woke us. I really do,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ''He hadn't hit one in a while and that was a big one. I really think that got the guys energized.''
Travis d'Arnaud singled with one out in the seventh, chasing Lackey. Joel Peralta (0-1) walked slumping pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza before Nimmo, starting for injured outfielder Curtis Granderson, singled on the ninth pitch of a gritty at-bat for his first career RBI.
''That's a big league at-bat for the kid,'' teammate Neil Walker said. ''Those are the at-bats that give you confidence, especially as a young guy. So I can't say enough about how he grinded through that and how big a hit that was.''
The throw to third allowed Nimmo to reach second, and the Mets had two runners in scoring position. With the Cubs playing their infield in, Walker hit an RBI chopper toward the middle against reliever Pedro Strop.
Figuring he had no play at the plate, Baez threw to third in an attempt to get Nimmo. But the wide throw ticked off Bryant's glove and rolled into foul territory, letting Nimmo cross the plate with a big smile on his face.
''He was definitely a sparkplug for us today,'' Walker said. ''This is how we have to grind right now.''
Erik Goeddel (1-0) struck out two in 1 2/3 hitless innings for the win.
''Getting beat's one thing. When you feel like you kind of gave one away, let one go, that's a different kind of loss,'' Lackey said.
Cubs: RF Jason Heyward was rested against the left-hander with Chicago in the middle of playing 24 straight days. He has a little soreness on his left side but certainly could have started, Maddon said. Heyward pinch-hit in the eighth and shattered his bat on a weak grounder back to the mound against lefty Jerry Blevins, stranding two runners.
Mets: Granderson was out of the lineup again after an MRI revealed a mild strain of his right calf, general manager Sandy Alderson said. Granderson was unavailable off the bench and is expected to miss at least a couple of games. A reinforcement could arrive Friday in Gold Glove outfielder Juan Lagares (sprained left thumb), nearly ready to come off the 15-day DL. Lagares played his third rehab game with Double-A Binghamton on Thursday night.
Cubs RHP Jason Hammel (7-4, 2.58 ERA) starts Friday night against RHP Jacob deGrom (3-4, 2.67), who won Game 3 of the NLCS last year at Wrigley Field. The 2015 All-Star is 0-4 in 10 starts since beating San Francisco on April 30. Chicago has lost Hammel's last four outings after going 9-2 in his first 11.