ATLANTA (AP) — One night after getting struck in the face by a 95 mph fastball, Kevin Pillar popped out of the dugout to deliver the lineup card to home plate.
No way the New York Mets were losing this game.
Even if it took a hit from the most unlikely of players.
Jonathan Villar and Tomás Nido homered for the Mets, powering a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, but it was a third-inning single by reliever Tommy Hunter that symbolized how resourceful New York has been in the face of a staggering rash of injuries.
“He was due,” Nido quipped.
Was he ever.
Hunter, a 34-year-old right-hander, was second to the mound on a night when the Mets relied on their bullpen to get by without a true starter. He had batted only four times previously in his 14-year career.
He finally got his first hit, lining one cleanly to left field.
“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in the big leagues,” Hunter said, still riding high during a giddy Zoom session with reporters several hours later. “I got a knock in The Show. … I feel like I’m a real baseball player now.”
With everyone on the top step of the Mets dugout to applaud his accomplishment, Hunter waved in their direction, gave a little shake of the hips and fist-bumped first-base coach Tony Tarasco.
Hunter’s hit proved huge. With two outs, Villar drove a 1-1 pitch into the seats in left-center for a two-run shot.
When he got to home plate, a winded Hunter was there to greet him.
“I don’t like running,” Hunter said, having apparently failed to consider the ramifications of getting a hit. “I’ll tell you what: it’s a long way around those bases.”
With his face swollen and badly bruised, Pillar carried New York’s lineup card to home plate before the game, a gesture…
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