T.J. Rivera hit just a handful of homers this season, but none were close to the clutch shot he delivered Wednesday night in Binghamton.
"I'm at a loss for words," he said. "I'm still a little shocked. It doesn't happen often."
The Mets second baseman slugged a three-run walk-off homer as Binghamton came back to stun the Portland Sea Dogs, 8-5, in Game 1 of the best-of-5 Eastern League Eastern Division series on Wednesday at NYSEG Stadium.
Rivera, who went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, hit the first pitch he saw from reliever Noe Ramirez over the left-field wall after Xorge Carrillo had reached on a fielding error by third baseman Mike Miller and Wilfredo Tovar singled with one out. Binghamton rallied for three runs to tie the game an inning earlier when Rivera hit an RBI double and scored on second baseman Sean Coyle's throwing error and Darrell Ceciliani followed with a game-tying sacrifice fly.
"It was a great feeling," said Rivera, a 25-year-old who signed with the Mets as an undrafted free agent out of Troy University. "To start the playoffs this way and get the team rolling, it felt awesome. When I hit it, I was hoping I got it into the gap, but it kept carrying. Any time it happens, it's an exciting feeling. I'm grateful, hopefully we keep it going and try to get another win tomorrow."
Portland jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the sixth on homers by Coyle and David Chester. Carson Blair went 3-for-4 with a run scored and Rusney Castillo, Boston's newest high-priced Cuban free agent, singled in three at-bats before leaving after the fifth inning for a defensive replacement. The center fielder made his Double-A debut after helping the GCL Red Sox win the Gulf Coast League championship in three games last week.
Cody Satterwhite (1-0) picked up the win, striking out two in one inning, while Ramirez (0-1) was charged with three unearned runs on two hits in 1 1/3 frames. Portland starter Brian Johnson struck out eight and held the Mets to a pair of runs on six hits and walk over seven frames, throwing 64 of his 96 pitches for strikes. Binghamton starter Tyler Pill lasted 5 2/3 frames, allowing all five Sea Dogs runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out four.
Rivera, who hit five of his 17 career homers this season, said he was sitting on a fastball from Ramirez in the bottom of the ninth.
"I just wanted to find a fastball I could hit, I didn't want to think too much," he said. "It's a big situation, I was ready for a fastball to hit. I told myself, if I see a fastball, I would drive it, and I was lucky enough to drive one early."
Rivera, who grew up a Yankees fan in New York City, hit .349 with five homers, 75 RBIs and 29 doubles in 115 games during the regular season between Double-A Binghamton and Class A Advanced St. Lucie. His five-RBI effort matched a season high, set on Opening Day when he homered and went 3-for-4 against Palm Beach on April 3 and again on April 10 against Jupiter.
"We were able to take the lead early and they bounced back. You've gotta tip your cap to them. They put up five runs and a lot of teams would back off, but our team is so confident. We're aggressive and we're fighters. We attacked back, we battled back," Rivera said of the B-Mets' first home postseason victory since Sept. 10, 2004. "We were lucky we were able to capitalize when a couple mistakes were made."
Justin Haley, the reigning Eastern League Pitcher of the Week, will start for Portland in Game 2 on Thusday opposite Binghamton righty Greg Peavey, who went 11-3 with a 2.90 ERA this season.
In other Eastern League playoff action:
Richmond 3, Akron 2 (11 innings)
Angel Villalona hit a go-ahead RBI double in the top of the 11th to send Richmond to a win in the Eastern League Western Division opener. Blake Miller hit a two-run homer in the third to put the Flying Squirrels ahead, but Akron tied it up in the bottom of the ninth when Joe Wendle singled home Ronny Rodriguez. Richmond starter Adalberto Mejia held the RubberDucks to a run on two hits and a pair of walks with seven strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. Akron starter Duke von Schamann allowed two runs on five hits while fanning six over seven frames. Gameday box score