NEW YORK -- With each passing day, the Mets' flirtation with postseason baseball becomes increasingly serious. As the Giants and Cardinals slugged things out amongst themselves this weekend in San Francisco, the Mets quietly took care of their own business at home, capping a three-game sweep of the Twins on Sunday with a 3-2 victory.
Gabriel Ynoa struck out eight over 4 2/3 innings in his first career start, Michael Conforto drove home two runs and T.J. Rivera homered for the Mets, while the Twins never made much of their persistent threats to score. The win moved the Mets one game in front of the Giants for the National League's best record among Wild Card contenders after San Francisco lost to the Cardinals.
"This is our season in a nutshell," said Mets reliever Jerry Blevins, who recorded the final four outs for his second save in six days. "We take the first two games in the series, give our guys a day off, and the guys behind us fill in and do their thing. That's been the New York Mets this year, all year. I'm glad nothing's changed."
Reporting to Citi Field late following Saturday's extra-innings walk-off victory, then taking the field without several of their regulars, the Mets relied upon Conforto, Rivera, Ynoa, Erik Goeddel and others in key spots. They plated all three of their runs against Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson, who allowed seven hits and two walks over five innings.
"Put it this way: I think winning's contagious," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "When things are going good, guys want to be a part of it."
Though the Twins twice loaded the bases in the second and fifth innings, they squeezed only one run out of those rallies. It was not until Kennys Vargas homered with one out in the eighth that the Twins scored again. The next batter, Robbie Grossman, collected his fourth hit of the afternoon, but finished without an RBI or a run scored.
"He got off to a great start. He got a chance to play probably more than he ever has at this level," Twins manager Paul Molitor said about the switch-hitting Grossman. "Over time, we've seen a little bit of separation between his left-handed at-bats and right-handed at-bats. Today was pretty good day left-handed."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Unusual suspects: With veterans Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Curtis Granderson all out of the starting lineup, the Mets turned to a different cast of characters for offense. Conforto came through immediately, singling home two runs in his first at-bat. Two innings later, Rivera smacked his solo homer over the left-field fence, widening the Mets' lead to 3-1. More >
"I really try not to think about the spot we're in," Rivera said. "I just try to have good at-bats no matter what the situation … and luckily, some of those hits I've been having have been key hits."
Dozier continues streak: With a fifth-inning single, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier extended his hitting streak to 22 consecutive games. With one more homer, he would set the record for most homers by an American League second baseman. Thirty-nine of his 41 homers this year have been while he's played the second sack. More >
"[Dozier has] put together a phenomenal run here in the last 3 1/2 months," Molitor said. "And he's putting up historical numbers at his position. The hitting streak speaks to a little bit more of the consistency of his at-bats. He's doing his job. He's a catalyst for our offense. At the end of the year, you're going to look at the body of his work and it's going to be pretty impressive."
Quick hook: Collins gave Ynoa almost no rope to work with, pulling him after Dozier's two-out single. The inning quickly grew uncomfortable for the Mets, as Logan Schafer hit a bloop single and Jorge Polanco walked to load the bases. But Goeddel recovered to strike out Vargas, stranding all three Twins. That preserved Ynoa's final line, even if he finished one out shy of qualifying for the win that ultimately went to Goeddel.
Shutdown specialist:With regular closer Jeurys Familia unavailable due to a heavy recent workload, the Mets asked Blevins -- a lefty specialist who went more than four years without a save before recording one last week -- to record the game's final four outs. That included Dozier, one of baseball's preeminent sluggers and top hitters against left-handed pitching, who came to the plate with two outs in the ninth. Blevins jumped ahead of Dozier 0-2, before striking him out on a curveball in the dirt.
"Everybody wants to be a hero," Blevins said. "[Dozier has] done it 41 times. He wanted to tie the ballgame up, so you try to give him something that looks like a strike and make him chase."
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Ynoa's eight strikeouts were fourth-most in Mets history for a pitcher making his first big league start. Matt Harvey set the franchise record with 11 strikeouts on July 26, 2012.
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
After asking Collins to put him in the starting lineup, Yoenis Cespedes departed after six innings due to nausea and dizziness. The Mets do not expect his condition to linger.
"[Cespedes] came up and said he just got sick in the runway and his legs were getting a little weak, he was getting a little dizzy, so I took him out," Collins said."
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins have a day off on Monday before opening their final Target Field homestand -- a six-gamer -- against the Tigers on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Left-hander Hector Santiago will take the bump for Minnesota.
Mets:With Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey both done for the year, every Noah Syndergaard start takes on even more importance down the stretch. Syndergaard will open the Mets' three-game series against the Braves in a 7:10 p.m. ET game Monday at Citi Field.