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Mets grind out two extra-inning wins to sweep Cubs

CHICAGO — The Mets worked extra, extra hard Saturday and were rewarded for those long hours with a doubleheader sweep at Wrigley Field.

Pete Alonso delivered the go-ahead run in extra innings in both cases, though he didn’t get a hit in either instance.

In the nightcap of the doubleheader, Alonso was clipped on the elbow by a Mychal Givens pitch with the bases loaded in the 10th inning, giving the Mets the go-ahead run in a 4-3 victory over the Cubs. Hours earlier, Alonso’s sacrifice fly against Givens in the 11th inning had driven home the go-ahead run in the Mets’ 2-1 victory.

In the nightcap, the Mets received a needed insurance run in the 10th, when Cubs pitcher Daniel Norris attempted to pick Alonso off second base and threw the ball into center field, allowing Francisco Lindor to score from third base.

It got dicey in the bottom of the 10th, when Yoan Lopez — left in the game to pitch after the Mets’ top options had been exhausted in Game 1 — loaded the bases after allowing a run. But Lopez got Frank Schwindel to hit a grounder to third and Eduardo Escobar stepped on the bag, then turned a game-ending double play.

Eduardo Escobar, who made the game-ending double play, hits a solo homer in the fourth inning of the Mets' 4-3 win in Game 2, completing a doubleheader sweep over the Cubs.
Eduardo Escobar, who made the game-ending double play, hits a solo homer in the fourth inning of the Mets’ 4-3 win in Game 2, completing a doubleheader sweep over the Cubs.
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The sweep was the Mets’ third in six doubleheaders this season — they have split the other three. The Mets (58-34) lead the Braves by 2 ½ games in the NL East. The reeling Cubs lost their ninth straight.

In the nightcap, the Mets received a third straight strong start from Max Scherzer since his return from the injured list. The right-hander pitched 6 ¹/₃ innings and allowed two runs on eight hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts over 102 pitches. Scherzer has 31 strikeouts in 19 ¹/₃ innings in the three starts since he came off the IL.

In the third inning, Rafael Ortega dropped Starling Marte’s fly to center, allowing the Mets to score an unearned run. The error put runners on the corners with nobody out before Lindor’s ground out brought in a run.

Escobar continued his mastery of Cubs starter Drew Smyly by blasting a solo homer in the fourth that gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. The homer was Escobar’s fourth in 12 career at-bats against the lefty.

The Cubs tied it 2-2 in the fourth against Scherzer on Yan Gomes’ second hit of the game, an RBI single that brought in Patrick Wisdom.

Scherzer surrendered three hits in the second, but escaped with only one run allowed, on Gomes’ RBI double.

In the opener, J.D. Davis was thrust into playing first base in the 10th inning, and the ball found him with the game hanging in the balance.

Escobar smothered Christopher Morel’s grounder and bounced his throw to first base as the winning run headed toward the plate. But Davis, who has played sparingly at first base, scooped Escobar’s throw for the third out.

“It was a pretty big play right there,” Davis said of his scoop. “I am not trying to single out one play or anything like that, but it was just one of those plays, it was just a great play by [Escobar], getting a glove on it and getting up and kind of giving me an in-between long hop. It was just one of those days where we didn’t score that many runs, but played great defense and the pitchers did their jobs.”

Davis had to play first base after Dominic Smith twisted his right ankle retreating to second base a half-inning earlier. Alonso was already in the game as the DH and the Mets would have lost that spot if he had entered to play first base.

The Mets received a combined five shutout innings of relief from Seth Lugo, Drew Smith, Adam Ottavino and Edwin Diaz in the opener.

Max Scherzer had 11 strikeouts in the Mets' Game 2 win.
Max Scherzer had 11 strikeouts in the Mets’ Game 2 win.
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“Good teams win those type of games and it’s hard on the road and a lot of things working against you,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It looks like it’s going to be a very pitcher-friendly day and we just didn’t know who was going to be able to push a run across.”

With the wind blowing in, turning the ballpark into a test for hitters, the Mets used Lindor’s leadoff single in the 11th to move automatic runner Luis Guillorme to third before Alonso untied it with a sacrifice fly to right. Alonso finished with two RBIs in the matinee and one in the nightcap to give him 77 overall, a club record for most RBIs before the All-Star break. Alonso entered the game sharing the record with David Wright.

Taijuan Walker gave the Mets a chance by allowing one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings in Game 1. It was a second straight strong start for the right-hander, who fired seven shutout innings against the Marlins on Sunday and lowered his ERA to 2.55. Despite the impressive first half, Walker wasn’t among the NL All-Star selections.

“I feel like I kind of started off slow in the beginning of the year,” Walker said of his first half. “I was working through some things, working on a slider, tipping [pitches] a little bit and stuff. I felt like I put everything together and was able to get in a good groove.”

In his second start since returning from a month’s absence on the injured list, the Cubs’ Marcus Stroman pitched 4 ¹/₃ innings and allowed one run on one hit with two walks and six strikeouts. Stroman departed the Mets as a free agent last offseason, signing a three-year deal with the Cubs worth $71 million. Overall, Stroman has pitched to a 4.69 ERA in 11 starts for the Cubs.

Walker, who is good friends with Stroman — the two spent time together at Stroman’s home earlier in the week — was asked who won the battle between the buddies.

“I would say I won this, because No. 1 we won the game and two I went longer than him so it was a good win for me,” Walker said.

Alonso delivered an RBI double in the fourth for the Mets’ only run against Stroman. Lindor walked leading off the inning before Alonso doubled to left.

Walker got dented in the fourth, allowing an RBI single to Schwindel that tied it 1-1. In the inning, Nico Hoerner stole second base against Walker and Patrick Mazieka before Schwindel delivered.

Cubs manager David Ross was ejected for a second straight game. Ross was tossed by plate umpire Ramon De Jesus after P.J. Higgins struck out to end the second.

De Jesus’ strike zone was a topic of conversation for much of the game: Guillorme and Brandon Nimmo were among the Mets players to express displeasure with it.

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