Escobar rallies Mets to walk-off, 1-game lead going to Atlanta

September 29th, 2022

NEW YORK — Eduardo Escobar stood, jersey top unbuttoned, and raised both hands skyward. The Mets’ third baseman was delivering a postgame television interview on the lip of the grass at Citi Field, having just become the first player in franchise history to drive home all of his team’s runs and collect at least five RBIs in a walk-off win. He was asked about the Braves, the Mets’ next opponent.

“I want to make these people happy when we come back from the road,” Escobar told the crowd, beaming. “Let’s go!”

Escobar on his big five-RBI game
If anyone is qualified to fulfill that promise, it is Escobar, perhaps the most universally well-liked player in the clubhouse — and one of the hottest hitters within those walls as well. Escobar’s offensive outburst Wednesday not only led the Mets to a 5-4 victory over the Marlins in 10 innings, but it also gave them a one-game lead heading into their most significant series in more than half a decade.

Escobar’s clutch five-RBI game
The Mets hold a tiebreaker over the Braves by virtue of their 9-7 head-to-head record, meaning they will win the National League East if they finish with the same record as them (so long as they aren’t swept this weekend, which would present a whole host of other issues). Escobar and the Mets can clinch the division title as soon as Sunday with a three-game sweep of their own.

Magic number to clinch the NL East: 6

“You try not to scoreboard watch, but where we are in the season, six games left, neck and neck with these guys, we’re in here watching it, too,” starting pitcher Taijuan Walker said. “Us winning the game, it’s huge.”

About 16 minutes before Escobar’s walk-off single, an initial wave of cheers began rippling through Citi as fans received alerts that the Braves had lost a walk-off of their own in Washington. Moments later, that information flashed on Citi Field’s center-field scoreboard, resulting in a louder roar from the crowd. On the mound, pitcher Drew Smith noticed the commotion and tried not to let the added pressure affect him.

It was a temporary shot of serotonin for fans and players alike, but it was only going to last if the Mets completed their own business with runners on first and second and one out in the bottom of the 10th. Escobar, who had already hit a two-run homer in the seventh and singled home two additional runs in the eighth to tie the game, stepped to the plate as a left-handed batter and hit an opposite-field single into shallow left-center. As Francisco Lindor raced around third with the winning run, the Mets piled out of their dugout to celebrate.

Escobar’s game-tying single
“He’s a catalyst,” said Smith, who retired all three batters he faced to record the win. “He’s been great all year long.”

The truth is, Escobar hasn’t always been consistent. In May and June, he largely disappeared while working through mechanical issues at the ballpark and personal ones away from it. In August, Escobar battled injuries. But in September, Escobar has been dynamic, batting .330 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs. Among National League players, only Pete Alonso has driven home more runs this month.