Marco Estrada pitched seven dominant innings to continue his second-half renaissance, but the Milwaukee Brewers couldn’t field a bunt in the eighth inning and it cost them a sweep in their final series of the season, as the New York Mets pushed across two unearned runs in the eighth for a 3-2 win in the regular-season finale on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.
Since coming off a two-month disabled-list stint in early August, Estrada was 3-0 in nine starts with a 2.15 ERA and a spetacular 0.733 WHIP in 58.2 innings, but took a hard-luck no-decision thanks to two errors and one bad decision in the eighth.
Juan Centano dropped down a bunt that Jonathan Lucroy pounced on from behind the plate, but second baseman Scooter Gennett broke late to cover first, then got tangled up with first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor—who had an eventful day of his own—and Lucroy’s throw sailed up the first-base line. Lagares came all the way around to score the tying run. Centeno wound up at second and was replaced by pinch-runner Matt den Dekker. Wilfredo Tovar dropped down a bunt that Halton fielded and threw to third base, but den Dekker beat the throw to put runners at first and third with still no outs.
After Josh Satin popped up to shallow right field, Eric Young Jr. hit a chopper that Kintzler fielded, but his only play was at first, with den Dekker scoring what would be the game-winner for the Mets.
New York got to Estrada early. Young led off the game with a bloop single to center field and promptly stole second base. His 45th steal of the season allowed him to pass Milwaukee’s Jean Segura for the National League lead and he added a 46th steal when he swiped third a moment later.
David Wright lofted a fly ball into shallow right field, but Norichika Aoki hesitated a bit on the throw as he battled the sun on the catch. Young slid in just in front of Lucroy’s tag to give New York a 1-0 lead.
The Crew took the lead in the fourth, but would come to regret a couple of base-running decisions in a one-run loss.
Bucknor had called Aoki out at first on a close play to end the third inning, but replay clearly showed Aoki beat pitcher Jonathon Niese to the bag.
In the fourth, Bianchi led off with a single up the middle and advanced to second on Lucroy’s single to right. Carlos Gomez—who had earlier stolen his 40th base of the season to become the first Brewer with a 20-homer/40-stolen base season—lined a single to left.
Third-base coach Ed Sedar sent Bianchi, who was tagged out at the plate. Yuniesky Betancourt then walked to load the bases and Halton sent a roller to second base.
Daniel Murphy went to second to force Betancourt and Tovar’s relay appeared to beat Halton easily. But Bucknor gave the safe signal … then put both hands on his head as if acknowledging the blown call. Lucroy scored to tie the game and Mets manager Terry Collins came out to argue with Bucknor, who said nothing before Collins returned to the dugout.
Logan Schafer followed with a slow roller to second that Murphy had no play on and the Crew took a 2-1 lead as Gomez scored.
Reliever Vic Black (3-0) got the win for the Mets, working a scoreless eighth inning, and Frank Francisco recorded his first save since Sept. 1, 2012, with a 1-2-3 ninth.
The win allowed the Mets to salvage the last of the four-game series and finish the season at 74-88, the same as the Brewers.
Milwaukee now heads to an offseason with some questions as the front office will try to figure out which pieces to put together for 2014. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Maryvale, Ariz., on Feb. 15.
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