Vientos and Álvarez both homer as Syracuse hangs on for 9-8 win in series opener against Worcester

The Syracuse Mets returned home to NBT Bank Stadium in grand style on Tuesday night, slugging three home runs early as the Mets hung on late for a 9-8 win over the Worcester Red Sox (Triple-A Boston Red Sox) on a comfortable, low-70s night in the Salt City. The Mets have been on a scoring binge as of late. In its last seven games, Syracuse has scored 51 total runs, including at least nine runs in four of those games.

Syracuse (51-67) got right to work in the bottom of the first as a familiar face powered the Mets to a 2-0 lead right out of the chute. Francisco Álvarez stood on first base after a walk early in the inning, and Mark Vientos brought him home with a two-out bomb over the fence in right-center field on the first pitch of the at-bat for a two-run homer. Vientos, the reigning International League Player of the Week, is in an otherworldly groove at the plate right now. In his last seven games, the 22-year-old from Florida has gone 14-for-31 at the plate (a .452 batting average) with four home runs, 12 runs driven in, and 11 runs scored.

The Mets kept up the scoring barrage via the long ball in the third inning, plating five runs by way of the home run. First, Álvarez hit a two-run shot with one out in the frame that nearly sailed all the way over the batter’s eye in dead centerfield for a 4-0 advantage. It was the sixth home run of the season in 32 Triple-A games for one of the top-ranked prospects in all of baseball. Then, after Dominic Smith was plunked by a pitch and Vientos walked, Daniel Palka crushed a three-run shot over the wall in right-center field that made it a 7-0 game all of a sudden. Palka and Vientos are now tied for the team lead with 23 home runs on the season, putting them both in the top three in the International League in homers.

Each team traded a pair of runs in the fourth inning. Worcester (59-59) scored twice in the frame when Ronaldo Hernandez singled with one out, scored on a Triston Casas RBI triple, and then Casas scored himself on a sacrifice fly from Jaylin Davis to make it a 7-2 game.

Syracuse had its counter in the bottom half of the fourth. First, Deven Marrero and Travis Jankowski walked with one out to put two runners on base. Then, Álvarez singled into center field to score Marrero to push the edge up to six, 8-2. Smith plated Jankowski with a single of his own to give the Mets back a seven-run lead, 9-2. Syracuse had scored its nine runs in the first four innings on just five hits. However, surprisingly, the Mets would not get another hit the rest of the night.

It remained a 9-2 game into the top of the seventh inning, when the plucky WooSox refused to go quietly into the night. Worcester scored three times in the seventh on three hits. Davis walked, and Christin Stewart singled to start the inning, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. After Ryan Fitzgerald struck out, Nick Sogard lined a single into left field that plated Davis and made it a 9-3 game. After Connor Wong bounced into a fielder’s choice, Abraham Almonte hit a two-run triple off the top of the wall in right-center field with two outs to make it a 9-5 game all of a sudden. Enmanuel Valdez flied out to end the inning, but the Red Sox were far from done on this night.

In the eighth, the WooSox got even closer with two more runs. Hernandez walked starting the inning, followed by a Casas double that rolled all the way to the wall in right-center field that scored Hernandez and made it a 9-6 game. Casas, one of the top prospects in baseball, finished a home run shy of the cycle with three hits, two runs scored, and two runs driven in. The 22-year-old later danced home on an RBI single later in the inning from Christin Stewart that made it a 9-7 game. Stewart finished the night 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.

The Mets began the top of the ninth with Michel Otañez on the mound and a 9-7 lead. Otañez was seeking his second save of the season in three opportunities, but this one would not come easy. Wong and Almonte both singled starting the frame, putting the tying runs on base with nobody out in the ninth, After Valdez flied out for the first out of the inning, Hernandez smacked a single into left field that scored Wong, moved Almonte to second and brought the hulking Casas to the plate in a 9-8 game.

Then, Syracuse caught a break. Otañez bounced a pitch in front of home plate, but it did not roll very far from Álvarez behind the plate. The catcher grabbed the ball barehanded and threw a strike to second base, nabbing the runner there who was trying to advance up to second base. Almonte did move up to third base on the play, but the Mets were now one out away from finally securing the win. Casas was intentionally walked to avoid his hot bat, bringing Jaylin Davis to the plate. Otañez got the count to 1-2 and then finished Davis off, unleashing a nasty breaking ball that caught the outer half of the plate and handed Syracuse its 11th win in 16 games against the WooSox so far this season.

Syracuse is home all week, taking on the Worcester Red Sox in a six-game series from Tuesday through Sunday. The second game in the series is scheduled for Wednesday night. Left-hander Mike Montgomery is slated to start for the Mets, opposed by right-hander Connor Seabold for the Red Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.

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