Mets rally in ninth inning, survive Phillies’ comeback bid to split London Series

LONDON — The New York Mets gave the Brits exactly what they were hoping for Sunday at London Stadium: a playoff-like game that came down to a thrilling ninth-inning finish.

After going down 4-3 in the seventh, the Mets rallied for three runs off left-handed closer Jose Alvarado (1-3) in the top of the ninth to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies, 6-5, splitting the two-game London Series.

Not to be outdone, the Phillies (45-20) rallied in the bottom of the ninth. With the bases loaded and Nick Castellanos at the plate, Drew Smith (two saves) jammed him with an 0-2 curveball. Castellanos broke his bat on a dribbler and raced toward first base, but catcher Luis Torrens quickly picked it up, tagged home plate and threw to Pete Alonso at first for a game-saving, 2-3 double play.

“What I’m proud of is that the guys never quit,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo.

Smith couldn’t quit. Right-hander Reed Garrett (6-2) had already thrown 1 1/3 innings when he went back out to try to close out the ninth. He put two on and got one out before the Mets (28-36) went to Smith. The right-hander promptly gave up a single to Bryce Harper to load the bases, then walked Alec Bohm to bring in a run.

But Smith went right at Castellanos, unafraid to attack an aggressive hitter.

“I would have loved to come in and strike out Harper and then strike out Bohm and get done with it. That’s the ideal situation,” Smith said. “I made it a little tougher on myself but made some pitches when I needed to and came through. And that’s what it’s all about.”

The Mets are without closer Edwin Diaz (shoulder impingement), and with the way they’ve blown leads, they need someone to step up. Smith did exactly that, but Torrens was the key to getting those last two outs.

“The first thing that I thought about doing was getting that out at home,” Torrens said through a team translator. “Then [I thought] that if we can get that out at first base, then that’s what we wanted to do.”

Pinch-runner Garrett Stubbs slid hard from third base into Torrens, getting the catcher’s left foot with his spike. Torrens didn’t see any ill intentions, and Smith was so excited he didn’t even grasp what had happened.

“I pumped my fist and then I saw him on the ground and just wanted to make sure he was OK,” Smith said. “I saw him on the ground and asked if he was good. And then I asked him if he stepped on the bat. He said no. I had no idea what happened at the time, but I’m glad he’s OK.”

Right-hander Dedniel Nuñez gave up a tie-breaking homer to sparsely-used Phillies outfielder David Dahl in the seventh. It was only Dahl’s third game in the Major Leagues this season. The Mets may have pushed Nuñez a little too far by having him get up for a third time, but the Mets needed to make up innings after pulling starter Jose Quintana in the fourth.

For the second straight day, the Mets were forced to pull their starting pitcher in the fourth inning. Quintana came out with two outs in the fourth and the Mets trailing 3-0.

Once again, the bullpen was forced to cover a lot of ground. With only two games in five days, the Mets and Phillies could be aggressive with their relief arms, but the bullpen has been unreliable in the late innings, and without Diaz, the high-leverage innings have been a challenge.

Nuñez, a 24-year-old rookie, did what he could by picking up five big outs before giving up the home run. Smith stepped up when the Mets needed him.

“Credit to the guys for continuing to battle back,” said manager Carlos Mendoza. “We got down early in the game and then had good at-bats in the sixth. … Overall, good at-bats [in the ninth], then we’re piecing it together. Garrett gets one out, and then Drew Smith comes in and continues to make pitches. Then that last play of the game from Torrens, what a great play.”

Quintana allowed three earned runs on six hits, walked two and struck out one over his 3 2/3 innings. His ERA is 5.29 on the season. Phillies starter Taijuan Walker, formerly of the Mets, was charged with two earned runs on two hits. He walked one and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings.

A total of 108,956 people attended the two MLB World Tour games this weekend. The entire production received rave reviews from fans and players alike, making it a successful weekend for all involved.

“This trip has been phenomenal,” Jeff McNeil said. “To get to play baseball in another country, it’s always exciting. I thought it was a lot of fun and pretty cool, too, with both sets of fans here. I feel like every pitch, there’s so much going on and it’s just loud.”