Rookies guide Mets to win over Diamondbacks
NEW YORK — Back in April, the New York Mets did not expect an upbeat late-season mantra to be symbolized by the postgame attire worn by Chris Flexen, who had never pitched above Class A prior to this year.
But for the Mets, it’s better to get the “positive vibes” — the phrase emblazoned on the hat and T-shirt Flexen wore at his locker late Wednesday night — in late and unlikely fashion than never.
Flexen earned the win by tossing a career-high six innings Wednesday night, and four other rookies — Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario and Paul Sewald — all played vital roles in the Mets’ 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field.
“It’s a lot of fun for us to be able to come up there and help the team win ballgames,” Smith said. “I’ve been seeing this go on all year at Triple-A. Now I’m just happy that we could come up here and show the world what we could do.”
Of the five rookies, only Sewald was on the Mets’ active roster on July 26, the day before first baseman Lucas Duda was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. That move began a rapid overhaul by the Mets (55-70), who started the season with World Series aspirations but are on pace to lose 90 games.
Six more veterans have been dealt since then as the Mets created everyday opportunities for Nimmo, Smith and Rosario, all of whom were listed among the organization’s top five prospects prior to beginning the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
The transition has not always been smooth — Nimmo, Smith and Rosario are batting a combined .253 with 54 strikeouts in 170 major league at-bats this year — but their collective performance Wednesday provided hope the Mets have staked their hopes on the right youngsters.
“I think right now they’re in the part where they’re just getting their feet wet, just trying to find what works for them,” said Mets outfielder Michael Conforto, who is in his first full big league season. “At this level, there’s a period of adjustment — there is for everybody — but I think they’re doing a great job so far.”
Nimmo reached base in all four plate appearances via three walks and a leadoff double in the first, when he scored the tying run on the first of Conforto’s two RBI singles.
The Mets took the lead for good in the fourth, when Smith drew a one-out walk and scored on Rosario’s single.
Nimmo coaxed another walk in the fifth and scored on Conforto’s two-out single. Smith homered leading off the sixth.
“I look more on the mental side — we all know they had skills or they wouldn’t be where they are,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “And they’ve been great. They go out, they work at it, they ask questions about how do I prepare for the next day when they have a bad night.”
Flexen (3-2), who was promoted from Double-A Binghamton to replace the injured Zack Wheeler on July 27, allowed two runs on six hits and four walks while striking out five. The Diamondbacks stranded seven runners against Flexen, who limited the middle of the Arizona order — Jake Lamb, Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez — to one RBI in nine plate appearances with runners on base.
“Just really bear down and get an out and really try to limit the damage,” Flexen said.
Jerry Blevins got one out in the seventh before Sewald retired all five batters he faced. AJ Ramos recorded his 23rd save, and his third since being traded to the Mets on July 28, with a hitless ninth to close out New York’s second win in the past 10 games.
Martinez had an RBI single in the first and Chris Iannetta homered in the sixth for the Diamondbacks (69-58), who remain a half-game ahead of the Colorado Rockies in the race for the first National League wild card.
Arizona’s David Peralta reached base four times via three singles and a walk. He also stole a base and scored a run.
“We built some innings,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “The pitcher (Flexen) made some pitches and got some really good hitters out.”
Zack Godley (5-7) took the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks while striking out five over five innings.
“It wasn’t a perfect outing for him, but he threw the ball well enough,” Lovullo said. “He did his job, but offensively, we couldn’t get anything going.”
NOTES: Mets manager Terry Collins won his 536th game at the helm, tying him with Bobby Valentine for second place on the franchise’s all-time list. ... Mets RHP Jeurys Familia (blood clot in right shoulder) threw a scoreless inning for Class A Brooklyn for the second straight night. ... Arizona SS Nick Ahmed (broken right hand) went 0-for-2 on Tuesday night in his third rehab game for the rookie-level Arizona League Diamondbacks. ... Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray (concussion) is scheduled to be activated from the disabled list to start the Thursday series finale. Ray was hit by a 108 mph line drive July 28.