Pete Alonso, New York Mets sweep lowly Cubs with 4-3 victory

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CHICAGO — Eduardo Escobar yelled as he pounded on his chest in celebration, and then brought Pete Alonso in for a quick hug.

Quite a day for the New York Mets. A long, successful one at Wrigley Field.

Alonso was hit by a bases-loaded pitch from Mychal Givens in the 10th inning, and the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Saturday night for a doubleheader sweep.

Led by Alonso and Escobar, New York (58-34) stretched its win streak to four in a row and moved 24 games over .500 for the first time since it was 92-58 on Sept. 19, 2006. It also increased its NL East lead to 2 1/2 games over second-place Atlanta.

“We fought really hard today,” Alonso said, “and it was awesome the way we grinded through both games.”

The lowly Cubs (34-57) have dropped nine in a row for their worst slide since they lost 10 straight in June. Givens (5-2) was charged with each loss in the doubleheader.

“These guys keep giving effort every single day, day-night doubleheader against a first-place team with a $300 million payroll, and these guys are fighting their (butt) off,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “So I’m really proud of that.”

Chicago had the bases loaded in the 10th in the nightcap, but Frank Schwindel bounced to Escobar at third for the start of a game-ending double play. Alonso pumped his right arm after catching the ball at first, and reliever Yoan Lopez (1-0) clapped into his glove in excitement.

“Those are games that good teams win, regardless, and we think we’ve got a good club,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said.

In the opener, Alonso hit a sacrifice fly in the 11th inning after Adam Ottavino worked out of a tricky jam, helping the Mets to a 2-1 victory. Alonso drove in three runs on the day to get to 77 RBIs, snapping a tie with David Wright for the franchise record before the All-Star break.

The big first baseman was grazed on his left arm by Givens’ 0-2 pitch in the 10th in Game 2, driving in Brandon Nimmo for a 3-2 lead. Another run scored when reliever Daniel Norris committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt at second.

The Cubs got one back in the bottom half on Christopher Morel‘s RBI single. But they blew a golden opportunity for more, a recurring theme during a difficult season.

New York ace Max Scherzer struck out 11 in 6 1/3 innings in the second game in his 108th double-digit strikeout performance, tying Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez for fourth-most in big league history. He allowed eight hits and walked one while throwing 102 pitches, matching his season high.

The biggest problem for the three-time Cy Young Award winner was old friend Yan Gomes, who caught Scherzer when the two played in Washington. Gomes hit an RBI double in the second and run-scoring single in the fourth to account for Chicago’s two runs against the right-hander.

“Yeah, we’ll have a good chat about that,” a grinning Scherzer said.

New York countered with Francisco Lindor‘s run-scoring groundout in the third and Escobar’s 11th homer in the fourth, a laser to left against Drew Smyly with the wind blowing in at Wrigley.

Chicago had five hits in the opener, one more than New York. The Cubs had a chance to close it out in the 10th, but Ottavino (4-2) retired three in a row after pinch-runner Nelson Velazquez stole third.

“You got to try to attack and do your best with it, and I was lucky to get out of there,” Ottavino said.

Patrick Wisdom struck out swinging and P.J. Higgins looked at a called third strike. Morel then hit a grounder to third, and Escobar made a scrambling stop and a one-hop throw that a stretching J.D. Davis backhanded at first.

Davis entered the game when Dominic Smith rolled his right ankle while scrambling back to second as the automatic runner in the 10th.

“It was just one of those days where we didn’t score that many runs but played great defense and the pitching did their job,” Davis said.

All-Star closer Edwin Diaz got three outs for his 20th save.

New York got another solid performance by Taijuan Walker, who pitched six innings of four-hit ball. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last seven starts.

“I finally feel like I’ve been able to put everything together,” Walker said.

Cubs right-hander Marcus Stroman pitched 4 1/3 innings of one-hit ball in his second start since coming off the injured list. He had been sidelined by right shoulder inflammation.

Stroman played for New York in 2019 and 2021 before signing with Chicago in December. He brushed off the significance of facing his former team.

“It’s the same mentality, mind frame for me going into each and every game,” he said.

Ross was ejected by umpire Ramon De Jesus after the second inning. Each side had issues with De Jesus’ strike zone at various points.

Ross also was ejected from the series opener. Friday afternoon’s game was postponed by rain, leading to the doubleheader.

MAKING MOVES

The Cubs brought up left-hander Steven Brault from Triple-A Iowa. Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. was sent down, and right-hander Matt Swarmer was designated for assignment.

Brault pitched a perfect ninth inning in the second game.

Right-hander Anderson Espinoza served as the 27th man for the Cubs for the doubleheader, and Lopez was the 27th man for the Mets. Espinoza pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the nightcap.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (stress reaction, right scapula) is slated to throw live BP on Tuesday in Florida. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner pitched four innings of one-run ball in a rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday. … Smith had a little swelling, and Showalter said he was going to get a picture of his injured ankle. “He rolled it pretty good,” Showalter said.

UP NEXT

Mets left-hander David Peterson (5-2, 3.48 ERA) and Cubs right-hander Adrian Sampson (0-1, 3.33 ERA) take the mound for Sunday’s series finale.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.