Monday, April 8, 2013

To The Rescue!

I was feeling rather frustrated with 1 out in the 9th on Sunday. I didn't go to the game, and at that point I was pretty glad I didn't, because to that point, the Mets had more or less slogged through a game with the miserable Marlins that did nothing to inspire anyone, and had also lasted well over 3 hours and 30 minutes despite only 5 runs being scored. The game itself was far from notable, outside of the fact that the stories were sure to read that the Mets were just the first to fall victim to future White Sox Phenom Jose Fernandez. In fact, it was really one of those games that was just sort of "on TV" for me, much like the games I have "On the radio" in my office. It's sort of background noise while I'm doing something else; in this instance it was cleaning the bathroom. Then the kitchen. Then the living room floors. And so forth. Finally, I'd finished my cleaning and I figured I'd wait until the end of the game to go grocery shopping.

I didn't realize that it was already 4pm and the game was only in the 7th inning.

Jose Fernandez was long gone by this point, which I suppose was fortunate for the Mets. Given the hype and the incessant Dwight Gooden comparisons, I suppose I expected a little more flash from the 20-year old, but when you rack up 1 run, 3 hits and 8 strikeouts in 5 innings, that's all the flash you need. Fernandez was staked to a 3-run lead courtesy of Aaron Laffey, who I believe was about the 8th man down on the depth chart as far as Starting Pitching options go, but with Santana out and Marcum out and the other options being Chris Schwinden and Collin McHugh, I suppose, Laffeyable as it may be, that Laffey was the best available option to take the ball on this day. That speaks volumes. The best thing I can say about Aaron Laffey is that he is a Pitcher who has pitched in the Major Leagues. Against the Marlins, Laffey managed to allow the first 2 runners on base in every inning (and if he didn't, he made it seem like he did), and only managed to escape down by 3 runs because he was pitching against the Marlins. Against a better team, the 10 hits he allowed likely would have led to more runs. I can't say I feel especially inspired by that performance.

So, all that being said, when I finally sat down and really started paying attention, the Marlins, behind Adeiny Hechaverria, Chris Tumbalalaika, Donovan Solano and Greg Dobbs (who, I believe, reached base every time he came to the plate this weekend) appeared primed to come away with a head-scratching series victory against the Mets. Sure, the Mets bullpen kept the game close (even LaTroy Hawkins), and sure, a nice bit of clutch hitting from Anthony Recker and another Home Run from Daniel Murphy made the game close, but it seemed to be somewhat cosmetic. This just seemed like a dead ballgame. Steve Cishek was going to come in, sling his sidearmed slider around and make the Mets look foolish in front of what appeared to be a Late September-sized crowd on a reasonably pleasant April Sunday.

Which is why the winning comeback seemed so jarring. It really came out of nowhere. Marlon Byrd can take the credit for the winning hit, but Ruben Tejada set everything up. With 1 out, Tejada came up and did what he usually does: work the count and foul off pitches, and finally reached base thanks to a Cishek pitch just grazing his jersey. Sometimes, that's all it takes. Tejada had already tried to jump-start a rally 2 innings earlier, stealing a base that ultimately went nowhere. In the 9th, he used his head and his legs again, going from 1st to 3rd when Kirk Nieuwenhuis' flare hit dropped in front of Cool Papa Pierre. The Mets had been taking advantage of Pierre's pop-gun arm all weekend, and Tejada played this to perfection, forcing Pierre into a lousy, off-line throw that not only wasn't close to getting Tejada, but also allowed Kirk to move up to 2nd base. With the dirty work done, Marlon Byrd was then able to ping a shot down the 3rd base line, past Tumbalalaika to easily score both runs and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in every sense of the phrase. This really seemed like a game that the Mets had no business winning, because the Marlins were just getting men on base and threatening incessantly. They just couldn't put it out of reach, which is telling of the quality of their team, and ultimately, the Mets made them pay for it.

More importantly, however, Tejada, Nieuwenhuis and Byrd saved the Mets from what would certainly be the embarrassing indignity of losing a series to the Miserable Marlins. It's bad enough that they had to lose one game altogether, giving the Marlins their lone win of the season, but I suppose the Marlins weren't going to go 0-162, no matter how much they deserve it.

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