ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Mets manager Terry Collins couldn’t help but smile after his surging team used a trio of late comebacks to increase its lead in the NL East.
Michael Conforto hit a tying double and Wilmer Flores had a go-ahead single in the ninth inning as New York rallied past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 Friday night for its seventh consecutive victory.
“Tonight was pure character,” Collins said.
Juan Uribe and Daniel Murphy homered for the Mets, who improved to 4-0 on a six-game road trip and moved 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Washington.
Lucas Duda reached first base to start the ninth on a throwing error by reliever Brad Boxberger (4-8). Duda went to second on a wild pitch and came home on Conforto’s liner to left-center. The rookie scored to make it 4-3 when Flores blooped a two-out single to right.
“It’s definitely impressive,” Mets starter Jacob deGrom said. “We’re never out of the game.”
Jeurys Familia got three outs for his 30th save.
The Mets said it was the first time in franchise history they overcame three different deficits in each of the last three innings to win, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
Evan Longoria, James Loney and Grady Sizemore homered for the Rays, who started a stretch that includes 22 of 27 games against teams currently with records above .500.
“Tonight just wasn’t our night,” Boxberger said.
Longoria gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead on his center-field shot in the eighth off Tyler Clippard (1-0). New York had pulled even at 2 when Murphy hit a solo drive against Jake McGee in the top of the inning.
The Rays went ahead 2-1 on Loney’s solo drive off deGrom in the seventh. It was his first homer since July 7, fourth this year and 99th in his major league career.
Last season’s NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom entered 7-2 with a 1.47 ERA over his previous 13 starts. He allowed two runs, six hits and had seven strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings.
The Florida native, who played college baseball about two hours from Tropicana Field at Stetson, received a nice ovation as he walked from the dugout to the bullpen for his pregame warmup.
“It was nice to have all those people here,” deGrom said. “I had a lot of family here. I don’t know how many. Had some friends I went to college with.”
Sizemore put the Rays up 1-0 on a fourth-inning leadoff homer. He took a homer away from Flores with a nifty catch in the sixth after jumping into and reaching over a short wall in the left-field corner.
Uribe tied it at 1 in the seventh on a solo shot off Jake Odorizzi, who gave up four hits over 6 2-3 innings.
Mets: 3B David Wright (spinal stenosis) could start a rehab assignment Monday. ... OF Michael Cuddyer (left knee) could return this weekend. He went 0 for 3 with an intentional walk in a rehab game for Class A St. Lucie and played nine innings in right field. ... LHP Steven Matz (left lat muscle) will throw off a mound next week. ... Collins doesn’t know when RHP Rafael Montero (right shoulder) will be back.
Rays: SS Asdrubal Cabrera started and had two hits after he was hit on the ear by a thrown ball Wednesday. ... LHP Drew Smyly (labrum) is scheduled for his fourth rehab start Tuesday.
The Mets sent minor league RHP Dawrin Frias to Oakland as the player to be named in Tuesday’s trade that brought LHP Eric O’Flaherty to New York.
Rays LHP Matt Moore gave up one run, two hits, one walk and had seven strikeouts over six innings against Louisville in his first start since being demoted last weekend to Triple-A Durham. Moore went 1-3 with an 8.78 ERA in six starts this season after returning from Tommy John surgery.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (6-5) is coming off consecutive starts of at least eight innings with nine or more strikeouts and no walks.
Rays: RHP Nathan Karns (6-5) has 10 no-decisions in 21 starts this season.