Jeff McNeil homered and drove in three runs while making his first career start in right field, helping the New York Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Friday at Wrigley Field.
Michael Conforto also connected as the slumping Mets won for just the fourth time in their last 11 games. Brooks Pounders (1-0) got his first victory since he was acquired in a deal with Cleveland last week, and Edwin Díaz worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 16th save.
McNeil’s two-run homer off Yu Darvish gave New York a 3-2 lead in the third. With two outs and Adeiny Hechavarría on second in the seventh, Cubs manager Joe Maddon brought in left-hander Mike Montgomery to face McNeil, and he pulled an RBI single into right field to break a 4-all tie.
“Kind of swung at a borderline pitch, but got enough barrel on it and found a hole,” McNeil said.
McNeil also played right as part of an unusual defensive lineup by Callaway, who was looking for more offense after New York lost 7-4 on Thursday night in the opener of the four-game series. He got his first Major League action in right when he played two innings at the position May 21 against Washington.
McNeil moved to left before the Cubs batted in the eighth, and made a key defensive play on Willson Contreras’ bloop hit. McNeil picked up the ball, noticed Anthony Rizzo had taken a wide turn around second, and ran at the big first baseman to begin an inning-ending rundown.
“I think that’s just my baseball instincts kind of taking over,” he said.
The Cubs also had Albert Almora Jr. picked off first for the final out of the sixth.
“We made too many mistakes,” Maddon said, “on the bases we made mistakes.”
Addison Russell hit a two-run homer for Chicago, which dropped to 2-2 on a 10-game homestand. Brad Brach (3-2) got the loss after surrendering Hechavarría’s leadoff single in the seventh.
Darvish allowed four runs and four hits in six innings in his 10th consecutive no-decision, extending a franchise record. He became the first traditional starting pitcher with 10 straight no-decisions since Philadelphia’s Randy Lerch in 1977.
“I want to compete,” Darvish said. “Not only frustrating, like weird. I’m not losing. I’m not winning. It’s just weird. I want to win.”
While Darvish was just OK on the mound, he had quite a day at the plate.
He slapped a two-out RBI single through the right side to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the second. He led off the fifth with another single against Jason Vargas, and Russell followed with a drive into the bleachers in left for his fifth homer.
The 32-year-old Darvish entered with one hit this season and six for his career.
White Sox 5, Rangers 4: Yolmer Sanchez drove in the go-ahead run on a squeeze bunt in the top of the 10th as Chicago moved back within a game of .500 with a win on the road.
Eloy Jimenez singled with one out in the 10th, then went to third on Tim Anderson’s base hit. Sanchez then laid down a bunt as Jimenez sprinted home to break the 4-4 tie.
Zack Collins hit a three-run homer in the second for the Sox (36-37) to answer Nomar Mazara’s two-run shot in the first for Texas, then Rougned Odor tied it up with a solo homer in the bottom of the second. Jimenez drove in Yoan Moncada with a single for a 4-3 Chicago lead in the third, then Danny Santana singled in Ronald Guzman in the seventh as Texas tied it up.
Ryan Cordell had three hits to lead the Sox, and Reynaldo Lopez got a no-decision after allowing three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 inninfs, striking out four and walking one. Kelvin Herrera (3-3) got the win in relief, and Alex Colomé notched his 16th save in 16 chances.
Cardinals 5, Angels 1: The cheers for Albert Pujols lasted much longer than his at-bat.
It had been almost 8 years in the making, but Albert Pujols returned to the Busch Stadium on Friday night and was greeted by a raucous standing ovation that carried on for over a minute.
Then the Cardinals notched the win behind Michael Wacha’s strong start and Marcell Ozuna’s three RBIs.
Pujols spent the first 11 years of his All-Star career with the Cardinals before signing with the Los Angeles Angels after the 2011 season. Due to inconsistent interleague scheduling, this was the first time the Angels have visited St. Louis since Pujols left.
During the ovation, Pujols and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina – whom he refers to as his little brother – embraced in the first inning. Before stepping in, Pujols tipped his helmet, sending the crowd noise to another level.
The cheers faded as quickly as the at-bat, in which Pujols flied out to deep center field on Wacha’s first pitch.
Wacha was drafted by the Cardinals as compensation for Pujols signing a $254 million, 10-year contract with the Angels as a free agent.
The 39-year-old Pujols was reflective as he prepared to take the field for the first time since celebrating the 2011 World Series championship after helping St. Louis defeat the Texas Rangers in seven games.
“The 11 years, the success I had here, nine playoffs, two World Series, best fans in baseball,” Pujols said. “I use the term that I came here as a little boy and I left as a really strong and big man, a grown man.”
Pujols will forever have a special place in the history-rich lore of the Cardinals.
He came out of nowhere, drafted in the 13th round in 1999, to become the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year. Pujols hit .328 with 455 doubles, 445 home runs and 1,329 RBI in 1705 games with the Cardinals.
Pujols was a three-time National League MVP, nine-time All-Star, a six-time Silver Slugger and a two-time Gold Glove winner. Pujols led the Cardinals to championships in 2006 and 2011 and to another World Series appearance in 2004.
“What Albert did for the city, he deserves it,” Molina said of the ovation.