Jeff McNeil wants his dog, Willow, on TV as much as possible, according to SNY’s Steve Gelbs, but this was a ruff way to get airtime.
With one out in the second inning on Saturday, Atlanta right fielder Adam Duvall bit into an off-speed pitch from Steven Matz and sent Michael Conforto out to go fetch.
Cardboard cutouts of Conforto’s dogs, Kali and Griffey, are next to Jeff McNeil’s pooch, Willow, in the right-field stands, but their human wasn’t coming over to give them skritches. All Conforto could do was howl at the moonshot as the ball hit the Willow McNeil cutout.
According to StatCast, the tail of the tape was that Duvall’s blast went 350 feet. Had there been real fans in the Flushing stands, they would have been barking at Matz for serving up such a juicy meatball of a 1-2 pitch, which clearly didn’t have enough bite on it.
Matz usually is pretty good with two strikes on a hitter — he had an 8.6 K/9 rate last season, but he also gave up 27 home runs, so it’s not a new trick for the lefty to work around the occasional dinger.
Scoring their first run of the year, the Atlanta dugout barked its approval, as they certainly would not want to fall behind the pack early with consecutive losses to open the 60-game season.
Atlanta had been brought to heel by Jacob deGrom and three relievers in the opener, as everyone but Ronald Acuña Jr., Marcell Ozuna, and Dansby Swanson took the collar.
After the Duvall homer, Matz managed to stay calm, and didn’t allow another run in his six-inning outing. Striking out seven, the southpaw issued only one walk.
It was shaping up as a real dog day afternoon for the Mets, as they went hitless for the first four innings, but Conforto was able to get a lick in with a double off Max Fried, and came around to score on an Amed Rosario triple. But since every dog has its day, McNeil avenged the homer off Willow by putting the Mets ahead with a sacrifice fly.
As Atlanta’s usually pawsome lineup continued to wave a collection of bones, rolled-up newspapers and pooper scoopers, right up until Edwin Diaz put himself right back into Mets fandom’s doghouse by serving up a tying homer to Ozuna on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth.
In the 10th, Hunter Strickland made his Mets debut and introduced himself by sticking his nose in a butt. A single by Swanson brought home Duvall, the free baserunner on second thanks to MLB’s new extra-innings rule. Two more hits, sandwiched around a dribbler back to the mound, made it a 5-2 game.
The Mets, begging for a miracle, did load the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the 10th, but only managed one run on Dominic Smith’s sacrifice fly.
That’s some kind of way to lose — woof.