Mets' 9th-inning challenge ruled unsuccessful as Cubs steal a victory with wild ending

NEW YORK — A controversial call on the field and some late-game theatrics made for an exciting, yet ultimately disappointing ending for the Mets on Wednesday night at Citi Field.

With one on and one out and the Mets trailing the Chicago Cubs 1-0, rookie center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong missed a fly ball hit by J.D. Martinez at the wall. It went for a double and Pete Alonso advanced to third. Jeff McNeil flew out to left fielder Ian Happ and Alonso broke for home. Happ hit the cutoff man, Christopher Morel, at third base, and Morel threw a strike to catcher Miguel Amaya to complete a double play.

Home plate umpire Charlie Ramos called Alonso out and the Mets challenged the call. Fans were on their feet for several minutes watching replays on the scoreboard thinking Alonso was safe, but in the end, the umpires found that Amaya did not block Alonso’s lane.

He remained out.

The Cubs scratched out a run against right-hander Jose Butto to edge the Mets, 1-0, and take a 2-1 series lead.

Shota Imanaga (5-0), a 30-year-old left-hander who is pitching his first season in the major leagues after a standout career in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League, shut out the Mets over seven innings, allowing three hits, a walk and striking out seven. The Mets have been shut out only three times this season but have scored only five runs in these last three games against the Cubs (19-12).

Butto (0-2) allowed only one earned run over six innings, bouncing back from a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals his last time out. It came in the fifth inning when Matt Mervis scored on a sacrifice fly from Crow-Armstrong. Butto gave up a double to Mervis to lead off the inning and the DH advanced to third on a wild pitch.

It looked as though Chicago would rally when leadoff man Nico Hoerner extended the inning with a two-out single, but Butto struck out Mike Tauchman to end the inning. Butto struck out six hitters and walked two to post his third quality start this season.

The Mets stymied every potential Cubs’ rally, but they couldn’t start any of their own. They had two on with one out in the second inning, but Harrison Bader grounded into a double play. They put two on with one out in the eighth, forcing the Cubs to remove right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. and go to right-hander Yency Almonte, who appeared on the mound seemingly out of nowhere after Citi Field cut the lights to create a dramatic entrance.

Almonte struck out Tyrone Taylor and Starling Marte to get Chicago out of the inning with the lead still intact.

Mets manager Carlos Mendoza emptied his bullpen, using Jorge Lopez, Jake Diekman, Adam Ottavino and Sean Reid-Foley to hold the Cubs at bay and keep the Mets in the game. Lopez gave up a single and a stolen base to Dansby Swanson in the seventh before getting two outs. Diekman was already warm so the Mets brought him in to face rookie left-handed hitter Crow-Armstrong. Diekman did his job, striking out the former Mets first-rounder.

Ottavino and Reid-Foley each pitched scoreless innings. Hector Neris was credited with the save (five).