By JERRY BEACH Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit a two-run homer and the Cincinnati Reds held off the New York Mets 3-2 on Saturday night to earn another important victory in the race for the last National League wild card.
Four relievers combined to throw 5 1/3 scoreless innings for the Reds. With two runners aboard, Derek Law retired Mets slugger Pete Alonso on a game-ending grounder. Law was filling in for All-Star closer Alexis Díaz, who got the final five outs of Friday night’s 5-3 win.
Cincinnati’s bullpen has delivered at least 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a game six times this season — including twice this week. Six Reds pitchers combined to blank the Detroit Tigers over the final 5 1/3 innings of a 6-5, 10-inning win on Tuesday.
“Speechless about the bullpen,” Encarnacion-Strand said. “They’re unreal.”
The Reds are tied with Arizona for the final NL playoff berth, with Miami a half-game behind. Cincinnati holds the season-series tiebreaker over the Diamondbacks, but split six games with the Marlins.
Encarnacion-Strand, starting for just the second time in six games and opening a game at third base for the first time in his rookie season, singled and stole second in the second inning before hitting a 428-foot homer to right-center off Mets starter Tylor Megill in the fourth.
“Christian hadn’t been starting every day and he stayed ready, waited for his opportunity,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Was the difference in the game offensively.”
TJ Friedl scored the Reds’ first run on a throwing error by Mets catcher Francisco Álvarez. Daniel Duarte (3-0) got four outs in relief of Andrew Abbott, who allowed two runs and struck out five in 3 2/3 innings.
Sam Moll and Fernando Cruz combined to retire all nine batters they faced as the bridge to Law, who gave up two hits in the ninth but earned his first save since April 3.
“You look at the guys, the job that they did — we weren’t short, we had the guys out there that we needed to have out there and they did a great job,” Bell said.
Nine pitchers have at least one save for Cincinnati this season.
“When you’re called upon, you’re ready,” Law said. “You get the job done. That’s it.”
Álvarez and fellow rookie Ronny Mauricio had RBI hits for the Mets, who stranded 10 runners — including six in scoring position.
Megill (8-8) permitted three runs — two earned — and struck out two in 5 2/3 innings.
“He gave us a good chance to win,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “We only scored five runs in 18 innings (the past two nights). That’s a challenge.”
The Reds, who fell behind on Mauricio’s run-scoring single in the first, posted their 46th comeback win, tied with Baltimore for most in the majors.
Spencer Steer, who entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh, made a running catch at the left-field wall of Álvarez’s fly ball on the first pitch of the inning.
Reds: C Luke Maile (left hand), hit by a pitch Friday night, was scratched from the lineup after feeling soreness while trying to swing the bat. Bell said X-rays were negative and Maile should be available Sunday. … LHP Alex Young, sidelined since Aug. 24 due to a left hamstring injury and COVID-19, was in the locker room before the game and should be activated soon. Young struck out all three batters he faced for Triple-A Louisville on Friday.
Mets: RF Starling Marte (right groin) ran the bases Saturday afternoon and is expected to accompany the Mets on their final road trip, beginning Monday in Miami. Showalter said Marte, who has played just two games since July 16 due to the groin injury and migraines, still hopes to return this season.