MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Michael Conforto went 4-for-4 and drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the fifth inning, giving the New York Mets enough to hang on for a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Conforto even made the defensive play of the game, a graceful leaping grab at the top of the wall in left-center to end the third with a runner on and take away a potential homer from Nelson Cruz. Jonathan Schoop led off that inning against Steven Matz with a home run.
With Matz on a pitch limit, the Mets bullpen backed up the highlight reel created by Conforto with one hit allowed over the first four of five scoreless innings. Luis Avilán (2-0) picked up the victory.
Edwin Díaz survived a tense ninth for his 21st save in 25 attempts, retiring Cruz on a full-count foul popup with the bases loaded to end the game.
Luis Arraez entered mid-at-bat as a pinch hitter for the injured Schoop and turned an 0-2 count into a walk, and singles by Mitch Garver and Marwin Gonzalez dialed up the pressure on Díaz. But Cruz’s foul ball on the seventh pitch of his at-bat, a 99 mph fastball, was well within the range of third baseman Todd Frazier to make a basket catch in front of the dugout.
Michael Pineda (6-5) allowed exactly one earned run for the fifth time in his last six starts, but a sloppy opening inning by the Twins put the hulking right-hander in an early hole. Robinson Canó put the Mets on the board with a sacrifice fly that scored Jeff McNeil, after a passed ball by Jason Castro put runners at second and third. Conforto then came home on a fielding error committed at second base by Schoop, who tried to backhand a two-out grounder up the middle but bobbled it.
Pineda finished six innings for the third straight turn, allowing six hits without a walk, but his wild pitch in the fifth allowed Amed Rosario to advance after a double. Conforto poked a single through the hole between third base and shortstop, putting the Mets on track for their third straight win.
Matz, who made two relief appearances the week before the All-Star break, started for the first time since June 29. He finished four innings in 68 pitches, after an RBI groundout by Max Kepler tied the game following a single by Eddie Rosario and a double by C.J. Cron to start the frame. Rosario and Cron both returned from the injured list before the game, a boost for this first-place Twins team that took a six-game lead in the AL Central over Cleveland into the night.
The Mets are in no such race, buried in the NL East amid a tumultuous season, but this three-time zone, 10-game road trip to start the second half is at least off to a decent start. Their streak of 11 straight road games with a home run ended, but they boosted their NL-worst road record to 20-32.
Mets: RHP Jacob Rhame, who was sent down in April after receiving a two-game suspension from MLB for throwing near the head of Philadelphia slugger Rhys Hoskins, was brought back up from Triple-A Syracuse to fill RHP Zack Wheeler’s roster spot. Wheeler, one of the team’s top trade candidates with the deadline two weeks away, went on the 10-day injured list because of shoulder trouble. He told reporters before the game he wasn’t sure how many starts he would miss, and manager Mickey Callaway wasn’t ready to name a temporary replacement for the rotation.
LHP Jason Vargas (3-5, 4.23 ERA) starts the two-game series finale on Wednesday afternoon. He’s 0-2 with a 5.33 ERA in his last five turns.
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