The Indians All-Star closer failed to cover first base on what could've been a game-ending double play, and moments later J.D. Davis lined an RBI single that capped a two-run rally in the 10th inning for a 4-3 win Wednesday night.
Davis, like most everyone else at Citi Field, thought the Mets might be doomed when Michael Conforto hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Carlos Santana.
"Off the bat, I was like, yeeeek! You hold your breath," Davis said.
A mental lapse, no one saw that coming.
Santana's solo homer in the 10th put the Indians ahead 3-2. But then Amed Rosario opened the Mets half with a double off Hand (6-4) and went to third on a sacrifice by Joe Panik.
An intentional walk to Pete Alonso put runners at first and third, and the Indians set their middle infield at double-play depth, playing even with the bags at the corners.
Conforto followed with a hard grounder and Santana moved to his right to grab it in a hurry. Rather than try to get Rosario at the plate, Santana had another thought.
"Making a double play," he said.
Santana zipped a throw to star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was in perfect position to make a relay and was set to let loose. But no one was covering first - Hand initially watched the play, then curiously headed toward the plate as the tying run scored - and Lindor could only hold the ball.
Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez crouched in disbelief while Santana stayed bent over, looking at first base for a throw that never came.
"I wasn't looking at the runner. I didn't see if he was breaking right away," Hand said. "Obviously, a one-run game, you can't let that run score right there. I thought maybe he could've gone home."
"I kind of stopped, expecting him to throw it home. But once he wasn't throwing it home, I didn't have a chance to get over there," he said.
Indians manager Terry Francona said he thought Santana should've thrown home.
"With a lefty on the mound, you're not going to be able to get over there," he said. "So once he can't get back, there's nobody else there to take the throw."
The Mets won their fourth in a row and for the 20th time in 25 games, moving a season-high six over .500. It was their 12th win in the last 13 at Citi Field - they have more home games down the stretch than any team in the majors.
New York also improved baseball's best interleague record this year to 14-5, winning for the second straight day in a matchup of playoff contenders.
Cleveland leads the AL wild-card race and has played well on the road lately. But the Indians have won only once while visiting the Mets - that was in 2004 at Shea Stadium, with CC Sabathia getting the victory.
Santana hit his 30th home run, connecting off Luis Avilan (4-0).
After Conforto reached on the RBI forceout, slow-footed Wilson Ramos got an infield single that extended his hitting streak to 15 games.
Davis lined a drive that bounced to the wall in left for the first game-ending hit of his career. Hand has blown five of 34 save chances - he's squandered three straight tries over his last four outings.
"We believed in ourselves from Day One," Davis said. "Now, we're clicking on all cylinders."
Mets starter Marcus Stroman exited after four innings because of tightness in his left hamstring. He had an MRI and manager Mickey Callaway said the Mets aren't concerned at this point.
Indians starter Adam Plutko pitched six effective innings, the same as he did last week when Cleveland opened its extended trip to New York with a blowout win at Yankee Stadium.
TAKE ONE ... AND MORE
Actress Tea Leoni filmed a scene for her TV show "Madam Secretary" where she throws out the first ball before a Mets game. Tossing from the mound, she filmed four tries - one pitch made it on the fly to Mets backup Luis Guillorme, the others bounced.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (leukemia) is set to pitch one inning for Double-A Akron on Thursday.
Mets: OF-INF Jeff McNeil (hamstring strain) fielded grounders and is swinging the bat. He's eligible to come off the injured list this weekend. Callaway says it hasn't been decided if McNeil will need a minor league rehab assignment. ... 2B Robinson Cano (torn hamstring) took early batting practice and fielded grounders. If he's OK, he'll run before Thursday night's game.
Indians: RHP Aaron Civale (1-2, 1.50 ERA) makes his fifth major league start. He has gone at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in each outing so far, including last weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.86) has made a career-best seven straight quality starts.
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