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Neil Walker's two-run blast in ninth lifts New York Mets past Detroit Tigers

By
Rich Shook, The Sports Xchange
New York Mets second baseman Neil Walker (20). Photo by Rich Kane/UPI
New York Mets second baseman Neil Walker (20). Photo by Rich Kane/UPI | License Photo

DETROIT -- The New York Mets hope Michael Conforto is on his way back to being Michael Conforto.

Neil Walker hit a game-deciding two-run home run off Detroit's closer Francisco Rodriguez with nobody out in the ninth inning Sunday to power the Mets to just their fourth win in 12 games with a 3-1 victory over the Tigers.

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That didn't surprise Mets manager Terry Collins. Neither did the 6 2/3 innings of seven-hit ball thrown by Jacob deGrom, even though he did see a streak of 20 scoreless innings come to an end.

Most pleasing to the manager was Conforto's two-out opposite-field home run in the seventh inning that broke a scoreless tie.

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Conforto, who has spent much of the mid-season trying to get back on track, hit his first home run since June 16. Conforto's 11th home run was off a 91-mph fastball by Anibal Sanchez and went the other way into the Mets' bullpen in left center.

Conforto's home run dry spell only covers a span of 61 at-bats because he had spent time in the minors.

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"We gotta get Mike going," Collins said. "Michael is too big a piece of this club. What he did last year when he came up, and the first six weeks of this year. We need him to get back into that. He's one of those guys you can ride.

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"I just hope he continues to swing the bat like he is right now. He's one of the guys that when we sat down in the middle of the year, we said, 'We gotta get this guy going. If we're going to get into the post-season, he's got to be a part of it.' So it's nice to see him start swinging."

Manager Brad Ausmus brought his closer, Francisco Rodriguez (1-2), in to protect a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth but he hit Alejandro de Aza with an 0-2 pitch to open the inning.

Walker then drove a high 1-0 changeup over the wall in right center for his 19th home run and only Detroit's second loss in 11 games.

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"He's relaxed," Collins said of Walker. "You can see when he's taking pitches that he's seeing the ball really good. He's not fishing at anything. He's locked in. We need somebody in the middle of that lineup to get on base and stay hot for a while."

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Addison Reed (3-2) pitched 1 1/3 innings to get the win, although he was aided by a Tigers' baserunning blunder that got the Mets out of an eighth-inning jam. Jeurys Familia worked the ninth for his 39th save.

Sanchez pitched his best game of the season, allowing four hits and striking out 10 while throwing 100 pitches over eight innings. He didn't walk a batter as Detroit finished a 7-2 home stand.

"Every (home stand) deals with injuries," Ausmus said, "and we've had our fair share here recently, but we'll get through it. It was a very good homestand. To go 7-2 at home, that's outstanding. That's a great homestand -- especially when you're facing guys like (Chris) Sale, (Noah) Syndergaard, (Jose) Quintana, and deGrom. These are the best pitchers in baseball in four of the nine games. To go 7-2, that's an outstanding homestand."

The Tigers squandered a shot at the go-ahead run in the eighth when J.D. Martinez was caught and tagged out between third and home. Martinez was trying to score from second on a scratch single by Casey McGehee.

Martinez apparently didn't think he could score on the base hit between right-side infielders, which trickled into short right field. Justin Upton, who was intentionally walked following Martinez's two-out double, saw the ball rolling into the outfield and reacted as though he thought Martinez was going to try for the go-ahead run.

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Upton was nearly to third base before both runners realized their mistakes. Martinez dejectedly tried going home as right fielder Curtis Granderso stalked him with ball in hand. He was tagged out after a brief rundown.

"J.D. and I were talking about it," Ausmus said. "Really, the only thing you can do as a runner where he is, is maybe peek over your shoulder and kind of see what's developing. But at the same time, you've also got to pick up the third-base coach.

"At that point he probably would have been out at home anyway. Probably by 25 feet. Now, the only way it's possible that he scores there is if he peeks and he sees the second baseman try to grab the ball with his bare hand and it goes past him. That's the only way. Not looking at him right at that moment, he has no idea."

"And Upton probably did see that happen. He was looking over his shoulder. And then you just get caught in no-man's land. Because he assumes J.D. saw the same thing he did and kept going."

Detroit tied the score at 1 in the seventh with the first run charged against deGrom in 20 innings. The right-hander lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing the one run on seven hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

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Upton singled with one out and James McCann walked with two out. Andrew Romine beat out a 40-foot dribbler down the third-base line for a single to load the bases and pinch-hitter Ian Kinsler chopped an infield single over reliever Jerry Blevins' head to bring in the tying run.

NOTES: Mets CF Alejandro de Aza was hit on the right hand by a pitch leading off the ninth inning. He was taken for precautionary X-rays but manager Terry Collins said he wasn't overly concerned about an injury. ... The Tigers placed 3B Casey McGehee in the starting lineup, hitting seventh, after he was called up from the minors to replace 3B Nick Castellanos, expected to miss 4-7 weeks with a broken bone in his left hand. ... Detroit brought up LHP Daniel Norris and he will start Tuesday in Seattle in place of newly disabled RHP Jordan Zimmermann. ... Mets RHP Zack Wheeler, 17 months away from Tommy John surgery, had his first competitive outing since the operation curtailed at one 17-pitching inning. His game for Port St. Lucie was ended by rain after one inning. He allowed no hits but one walk and an unearned run.

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