NEW YORK — The Minnesota Twins have been playing out the string for weeks.
But even though the New York Mets are leading the National League wild card race, they'll be the ones sending an unknown to the mound and potentially fielding a piecemeal lineup Sunday afternoon.
The Mets look to pad their wild-card lead behind a rookie pitcher making his first career start and a yet-to-be determined lineup Sunday when New York goes for a series sweep of the Twins at Citi Field.
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Curtis Granderson hit two extra-inning homers — one to tie the game in the 11th and one to win it in the 12th — on Saturday night as the Mets beat the Twins 3-2.
The win, coupled with the St. Louis Cardinals' 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants, vaulted New York (79-69) into a tie for first place with the Giants in the wild card race, two games ahead of the Cardinals.
If the Mets and Giants tie for the first wild card, the Mets host by virtue of going 4-3 against the Giants during the regular season.
If the Mets are to beat the Twins again, they'll have to do it with what a so-called “bullpen game.” Right-hander Jacob deGrom, who was scheduled to make his first start Sunday since Sept. 1, was scratched because of an ulnar nerve injury in his right arm and will likely miss the rest of the season.
Rookie right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, who has a 15.19 ERA in six major league relief appearances, will start, though he is not expected to pitch long. Ynoa hasn't pitched more than two innings since his final start for Triple-A Las Vegas on Aug. 27.
“Probably (will) use a plethora of people (Sunday),” Mets manager Terry Collins said Saturday afternoon.
The Mets used eight pitchers Saturday, but long relievers Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett and former starter Rafael Montero — who initially filled in for deGrom but lost his rotation spot after issuing 14 walks in three starts — did not pitch and should be available to back up Ynoa.
With a 1:10 p.m. start following a game that ended at 11:26 p.m., Collins may also write out a lineup filled with backups. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (quad) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (left leg) are each battling nagging injuries, but played all 12 innings Saturday.
“I don't know what the lineup's going to look like tomorrow, we've got a lot of guys tired and banged up,” Collins said.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson draws the start for the Twins (55-94). It will be Gibson's 23rd start of the season, which ranks third on the team. In addition, five of Minnesota's starters Saturday have played in at least 90 games this season while a sixth, Bryon Buxton, has long been touted as the organization's top prospect.
With so many regulars on the field, manager Paul Molitor doesn't worry about motivation being a factor for the Twins, who must go at least 8-5 the rest of the way to avoid 100 losses — a mark the organization has not reached since 1982.
“Kind of challenge circumstances here as we head down the last couple weeks,” Molitor said. “But whatever's out there, I think the guys will be ready.”