CHICAGO — Pete Alonso blasted his 19th home run of the season Thursday night at Wrigley Field to keep his 60-homer pace alive, but the Mets had won the game long before that.
The losing streak wouldn’t be prolonged this time as the club salvaged a three-game series by routing the Chicago Cubs, 10-1.
“We didn’t play the kind of baseball that we wanted to the last two days, so to get this win is big,” said second baseman Jeff McNeil. “We’re going to carry that on to Colorado.”
The Mets (26-25) hit the Chicago bullpen hard. They spoiled the season debut for Kyle Hendricks and got a strong performance from Carlos Carrasco.
The veteran right-hander needed a performance like this as bad as the Mets did. The right-hander was hit hard to start the season and bone spurs in his elbow landed him on the injured list. His first outing after coming off the IL against his former Cleveland team left many questioning whether or not the Mets could keep him in the rotation.
But the pitcher they call Cookie held the Cubs (22-27) to just one run over 6 and 2/3 innings, marking his longest outing of the season. Carrasco allowed just five hits, walked two and struck out four.
For the first time since last season, he was able to control all of his pitches.
“Finally, I could find my change and curveball,” Carrasco said. “I could throw everything for strikes today. I know I got too many pitches deep in the game there, but I just wanted to go deep in the game. We used the bullpen for the last two games. That’s what I did. Everything was working really good today.”
The one run allowed was a solo homer by Dansby Swanson in the first inning, but Brandon Nimmo led off the bottom of the frame with a homer of his own to even the score. Carrasco cruised from there, only running into trouble in the third when two singles and a walk loaded the bases with two outs. But he got out of the jam by using his changeup. Mike Tauchman rolled over it to ground out and end the inning.
“That’s what I was looking for,” Carrasco said. “Just getting an edge, getting control of that pitch, that’s really important for me because that’s what I’ve been using a lot and it worked pretty well.”
He retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings and came back out for the seventh for the first time this season. Adam Ottavino replaced him with two out and one on and Carrasco came off the field with his first win of the season (1-2) secured with the Mets up 7-1.
“Command was good, he had a good changeup,” said manager Buck Showalter. “I thought he had crisp stuff his last time out but he couldn’t command it. He commanded it so much better and really attacked. He had use of all of his pitches today.”
Hendricks (0-1), the Cubs’ former staff ace, made his 2023 season debut Thursday, marking a return to action since being sidelined last summer with a shoulder strain. The Mets doomed him with a two-out rally in the third inning, scoring three to go up 4-1. They scored again in the fifth, with left-hander Brandon Hughes failing to keep the inherited runners from scoring. A double steal was executed by McNeil and Alonso and an error by catcher Yan Gomes was made trying to get McNeil at third.
The Chicago defense didn’t do Hendricks many favors and only three of the five runs he gave up over 4 and 1/3 innings were earned. Hughes kept the damage minimal but the Mets maximized it facing right-hander Michael Rucker.
Alonso’s two-run homer came on the first pitch Rucker threw him in the seventh inning to make it 7-1. A two-run triple by Nimmo in the eighth made it 9-1 and Francisco Lindor sent him home with a single to cap the scoring.
“Guys didn’t let up,” McNeil said. “We started pouring some runs on.”
Nimmo went 2-for-6 with a home run, two RBI and two runs. McNeil went 3-for-4 with three runs, a walk and a steal. Alonso went 2-for-2 with two runs, two RBI and two walks. Francisco Alvarez had his second two-hit game in as many nights (2-for-4).
Mark Canha was the only player in the Mets’ lineup who failed to reach base.
It was a big night for the visitors, but possibly an even bigger night for Carrasco.
“We all know what he could mean to us and has the last year,” Showalter said. “So to get him contributing like we know he can would mean a lot to our pitching staff.”