The day had started out with more bad news for the beleaguered Mets — their injured left-fielder, Yoenis Cespedes, had suffered a setback in his minor-league rehabilitation from a hip flexor— and only got worse in the first inning of their game against the Yankees when second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, one of the best hitters in their often-punchless lineup, slipped on his way out of the batter’s box.
Three innings later, Cabrera was out of the game with a tight left hamstring and the Mets were forced to put Jose Reyes — who was batting all of .139 this season entering Sunday — into the lineup to replace him.
To make things worse, the Mets were being handcuffed by the Yankees’ star right-hander, Luis Severino, who cruised through the first four innings.
For a Mets team that had lost eight straight games, all at home, and had scored a total of six runs in the last six games, the third game of this weekend’s Subway Series seemed headed for a predictable ending: another Mets defeat in a season that had started out with 11 victories in 12 games and then quickly fell apart. Instead, with some luck and some very good pitching, it ended in a surprising 2-0 Mets victory, although not without a bizarre, and nearly costly, moment provided by Reyes as the game moved toward its conclusion.
“That was a big win,’’ Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said afterward. “Beating their best pitcher and having a day off tomorrow to let that sink in. We needed to get things going.’’
As for the luck, of which the Mets would surely need some, it first showed up in the bottom of the fifth, when Reyes led off with a hard single to right. Todd Frazier then got a helpful call from home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro on a check swing that, on another night, might have been strike three. Severino then hung a slider and watched Frazier send it over the left-center-field fence to give the Mets what would turn out to be the only two runs of the game. The blast also made Citi Field actually sound like the Mets’ home ballpark for the first time all weekend.
Lugo was relieved by Robert Gsellman, who retired the Yankees in the seventh and then, with one out and a runner on first in the top of eighth, induced pinch-hitter Aaron Judge, who was supposed to have the night off, to hit a grounder to short.
Amed Rosario flipped the ball to Reyes for the apparent force at second, with Judge then safe at first when Reyes threw wide of the bag. A replay appeal by the Yankees, however, revealed that Reyes had never touched second base. So instead of an inning-ending double play, there were now Yankees on first and second, and the go-ahead run was in the batter’s box with still just one out. In a season of many miscues by the Mets, including a lineup that batted out of order, Reyes’s double blunder seemed destined to send the Mets to another defeat. Instead, Gsellman, bearing down, got Gleyber Torres to foul out and Brett Gardner to fly out to left.
Then came the top of ninth, when the Mets got fortunate again. With one out and Greg Bird on first and Anthony Swarzak on the mound, Gary Sanchez lined a bullet right at Frazier, who caught it and then doubled off Bird.
Game over, Mets win, as unlikely as it all seemed when the game began. And even with the victory, the Mets improved to just 28-34, in fourth place in the National League East, 7½ games behind the first-place Washington Nationals and still carrying concerns about their struggling lineup.