NEW YORK — Wilmer Flores arrived at Citi Field and saw he had been dropped to the bottom of the batting order, even below pitcher Jacob deGrom. The pair made Terry Collins’ grand idea look like genius.
The Mets manager slotted New York’s top home-run hitter ninth in the batting order for the first time in nearly a half-century and batted his pitcher eighth for the third time this season.
that stopped a five-game losing streak.
New York had totaled 10 runs during its skid.
“We finally woke up,” Flores said.
DeGrom was 3 for 3 with three singles, including two in the big inning. He became only the second pitcher since at least 1914 to have three hits in the No. 8 hole, according to STATS, following St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright against Atlanta on Aug. 22, 2008. And deGrom picked an appropriate time for the hat trick — it was fedora giveaway night.
“That was fun,” deGrom said with a wide smile. “Just trying to get up there and hit the ball hard, and they found holes.”
With the game scoreless in the second inning, runners at first and second and one out, deGrom punched a first-pitch, go-ahead hit as Milwaukee anticipated a bunt.
“I saw that the infield was kind of shifted over, so I was just trying to hit the ball in the middle of the field,” deGrom said.
Kevin Plawecki, who sat out May 15 because of a sinus infection, hit a RBI grounder to shortstop in the fourth as Michael Cuddyer slid home ahead of shortstop Luis Sardinas’ off-line throw, and deGrom loaded the bases with his second hit.
Wearing neon orange batting gloves, Flores drove a 94 mph fastball over the 370-foot sign and into the left-field party deck, an area where the Mets brought in the fence before the 2012 season. He became the first starting NL position player to hit a grand slam from the No. 9 hole in an NL ballpark, STATS said.
“He did something right, that’s for sure,” Collins said.
Flores’ sixth home run this season, which tied a career high set last year, put the Mets ahead 6-0. The shortstop had been struggling, entering with nine errors — tied for third in the major leagues.
“It’s got to help him,” Collins said. “He’s going to put up big offensive numbers. With the defensive side, I think he’s really been pressing at the plate a little bit.”
New York had nine hits and sent up 15 batters in the 32-minute bottom of the fourth, its highest-scoring inning since a club-record 11-run sixth against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 16, 2006. The Mets’ top home-run hitter had not been ninth in the order since April 30, 1967, in a doubleheader opener at Cincinnati, according to STATS.
Don Cardwell, New York’s starting pitcher that day, was in a seven-way tie for the Mets’ home-run lead with one. Flores became the Mets’ first outright home-run leader to hit ninth.
New York tied the record for runs by a team at Citi Field, which opened in 2009, and had a season-high 16 hits on a night of intermittent rain.
Collins wasn’t concerned Milwaukee would pitch around Flores, an infielder whose career high was six homers last year. “It’s not like he’s Giancarlo Stanton,” the manager said.
Cutting down on his stride, deGrom (4-4) limited the Brewers to five hits in six innings, giving up his only run on Ryan Braun’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly. He is 9-1 with a 1.32 ERA in his last 11 home starts.
“It was a big night,” he said. “Everything came together.”
Garza (2-5) allowed a career-high 10 runs and 10 hits in 3 1-3 innings, raising his ERA from 4.04 to 5.72. Plawecki added a solo homer, and Curtis Granderson hit a two-run drive in the seventh off Neal Cotts,
DeGrom laughed about whether a few more big days at the plate could earn an even higher spot in the batting order. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ll probably stay there.”
(RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer)