Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ass Out Of Fire

Tuesday brought with it my 7th game of the year at Citi Field, and the 3rd of those 7 against the Phillies. Though it was my 7th game of the year, it was the first in many respects. It was the first time this season that I saw the Mets bullpen melt down and blow a lead. It was also the first time I was at a game that went into Extra Innings, a feat I feel as though I've specialized in over the past few seasons. Most importantly, however, it was my first Walk-off victory of the season, as the Mets, thanks primarily to Wilmer Flores, dragged themselves out of the fire and won the game 5-4 in 10 innings, in spite of the fact that the proceedings took about an hour and one inning longer than it needed to.

For a majority of the game, things were humming right along without even a sniff of drama. Jacob deGrom really was the story of the night, because after wheedling into and then out of trouble in the 1st inning, he settled in and basically shoved the bats up the Phillies' asses most of the night. Granted, the Phillies lineup isn't exactly daunting to navigate through, but you still need to get the job done and deGrom accomplished that. George and I weren't especially surprised by this development. Early on, we were discussing the Phillies' team concept and how there didn't seem to be one. Think about this: The Phillies starting pitcher was Jerome Williams. Jerome Williams pitched for 3 teams last year, which is impressive because I think 90% of Baseball observers probably assumed he was out of the league. Going further, Williams is best known by Mets fans for surrendering Mike Piazza's record-setting Home Run, all the way back in May of 2004. My interpretation of the Phillies team concept was that they were comprised of one Prospect (Maikel Franco), one Rule 5 guy who was in the Majors 2 years too soon (Odubel Herrera) and 7 carcasses. I was amazed when they trotted out Grady Sizemore on Opening Day as their starting Right Fielder. It's two months later and he's still playing Right Field. Ryan Howard, who was rumored to have come back to life, looked simply befuddled by deGrom, striking out 3 times, and for good measure added a 4th later in the game. That being said, I shed no tears for the Phillies. That should come as no surprise. Their management hung on to their golden era for a few too many years, and now they're paying the price.

This, then, was the Mets gain, with deGrom cruising, and the Mets plating 3 runs in the 4th inning thanks to key hits from Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer. They didn't get many other opportunities, but then they didn't really need them.

Then, of course, the 8th inning happened, and all hell broke loose. deGrom, who was hovering around 100 pitches, gave up two singles with one out, and when Terry Collins came out to remove him from the game, I wasn't pleased, but I also wasn't surprised. I also wasn't surprised when he called for Hansel Robles, who's pitched rather well lately. But Robles was, to put it kindly, not good, and after he departed the game after having faced two batters, the game was shockingly tied. Alex Torres entered the game and made things worse by giving up a hit to Chase Utley, because Torres was in the game specifically to get Utley out. He did manage to get Howard, but then there was Collins again, for his 3rd pitching change of the inning (needless to say, by this point the game had slowed to a crawl), calling for the other Torres, who might have been better off as the first choice in the inning. Carlos Torres also gave up a hit to a guy he was in the game to get out, Maikel Franco, and suddenly, the Phillies were in the lead and everything good about this game had gone down the toilet.

Fortunately, however, the Mets came back in the last of the 8th, in spite of their best efforts to squander a golden opportunity. Ken Giles, one of those dark horse-types, walked Duda and then gave up a double to Daniel Murphy. Cuddyer simply had to hit the ball somewhere in order to get the tying run home, but instead he struck out, which didn't help anyone and, I feared, totally fucked the inning. But Wilmer Flores came through with the Sacrifice Fly to re-tie the game.

Jeurys Familia entered the game in the 9th. By this point, I felt that Collins should have just said "screw it" in the 8th and just had him get the 5-out Save. Though he walked Herrera to lead off the inning (and send the surprisingly hearty contingent of Phillies fans into a tizzy), Kevin Plawecki easily threw him out attempting to steal on the first pitch to Carlos Ruiz. This was fortunate, because Ruiz got a hit as well, but Jeff Francoeur, who is no longer being cheered by Mets fans, helped out everyone by hitting into a Double Play. Unfortunately, the Mets did nothing of consequence in their half, and it was off to extra innings, and for George, who had an early meeting and a longer trip than myself, it was off to the exit. For me, it was off to a lower seat, since most people were in the same boat as George and didn't feel like sticking around for a game that was beginning to reek of 14-inning hell.

The Phillies did nothing against Familia in the 10th, further cementing my 5-out Save theory. The Mets, however, strung together a little rally in their half. Juan Lagares led off with a single against Jeanmar Gomez, and immediately prompted a pitching change, as the lefty Elvis Araujo (you know, the great Elivis Araujo) came in the game. He walked Duda right off the bat and the Mets seemed primed to go in for the kill until Daniel Murphy summoned up his inner Daniel Murphy and hit into a Double Play, the 3rd such play the Mets had managed in the game. There went that rally, I'd figured, unless someone could just reach out and flick a ball over the Shortstop's head. Michael Cuddyer seemed a likely candidate, but Araujo walked him. Wilmer Flores, who already came up with a clutch hit (even if it wasn't a hit) earlier, did what was needed, flicking a pitch over Galvis's head and into the Outfield, scoring Lagares with the winning run, earning himself a bath of water, sunflower seeds and other such detritus and sending me off to the exits with that winning spring in my step, as the frustration over the blown lead and the extra innings and the late hour sort of melted away. Funny how winning always makes you feel better.

With this win, my record for the season now jumps to 5-2. For a few minutes there, I had this dread of being 4-3. That's also 5-2, and 3-0 against the Phillies, who have yet to win a game at Citi Field all season. So, now, the Mets can wash the stink of the Pirates series off completely if they can win after the quick turnaround this afternoon.

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