Monday, July 27, 2015

The Power of Professionalism

Within the span of about 45 minutes, a totally deflating afternoon turned into a victory snatched from the jaws of imminent disaster. Juan Uribe (It will take no less than the remainder of the regular season for me to get over the propensity to call him Jose Uribe) became the second New Met in as many days to pick up his official "WELCOME TO NEW YORK!" moment, as his 10th Inning RBI double plated the winning run in a 3-2 Mets victory. After playing two completely unwatchable games against the Dodgers and looking every bit like they were going to get blasted back into the late 1970s, the Mets got their acts together and won the final two games of the series and somehow earned themselves a split.

This isn't the first time the Mets have surprisingly split a series against a team that more often than not looked like they were in another league. The Mets did this against the Cardinals back in May, thanks to an outing of massive importance from Jacob deGrom on a Thursday afternoon after the Mets had been outscored 44-0 the last two nights. It should be of no surprise, then, that deGrom was on the mound on Sunday afternoon, putting forth a similar outing of massive importance. It was certainly a pitching matchup worth circling, as deGrom, who's rode the wave of his All Star Game dominance to further acclaim, matched up against Zack Greinke and his shutout streak that had reached 44 innings entering the game. So if you needed cannon fodder, this was it. If Greinke was mowing down everyone in sight, how would the punchless Mets have a prayer? In fact, he'd already done it to them once earlier this month. 

Well, sometimes you just have to stone up and hit the damn ball. And that's what the Mets did against Greinke, getting hits from Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kevin Plawecki and taking advantage of Joc Pederson pulling his "L.A. Cool Dude" act and yakking on Plawecki's ball, allowing Nieuwenhuis to reach 3rd with no outs. A man on 3rd and no outs isn't exactly a winning proposition for the Mets, and lord knows that's a joke I've had to recycle far too many times for it to be funny anymore. But deGrom followed by hitting a well-placed ground ball at in the general vicinity of Adrian Gonzalez, and rather than take what was probably a sure Double Play, he tried to be a hero and throw home, but too late to get Nieuwenhuis. And that, my friends, is how you break Mr. Tough Guy's inning streak.

The Mets furthered their lead later on when Greinke lost the plate in the 6th, intentionally walkEd Murphy, Unintentionally walked Duda and then hit Michael Conforto with a pitch. It's actually nice to see that the Mets now finally have a hitter who's not afraid to hang over the plate and dare the pitcher to come inside, and then not make any sort of effort to get out of the way when he does. Conforto has reaffirmed my assertion that he might be kind of a competitive dick, and pulling a Chase Utley act like that to get his team a run only serves to endear him to everyone.

The 2 runs was all the Mets would get against Greinke, but that was OK because Greinke was getting totally skunked by deGrom. deGrom allowed the Dodgers 2 singles, 2 walks and that's about it. It's not often that you can say a pitcher got the best of Greinke but on this day, deGrom totally outdueled him, working 7.2 innings, striking out 8 batters and bridging the game directly to Jeurys Familia.

Unfortunately, Familia picked this particular game to fall flat on his face. Since the All Star Break, Familia's blown both of his Save opportunities, but then again that's two opportunities in now 10 games since the break, indicative of the fact that things have been going less than well for the Mets. He's also appeared in a pair of non-Save situations and looked fine. But what is disconcerting is that these are good, Playoff caliber teams that are beating him so it bears some raised eyebrows when Familia has the kind of 9th inning that he did yesterday. He got the first out fine, but then came a pair of rocket doubles from Gonzalez and Turner, and then a poke-job single by Yasmani Grandal, and before you could blink, the game was tied and deGrom got yet another no-decision hung on his head.

Coming off of Parnell's gag job on Wednesday, this had all the makings of an even more deflating loss. You could see a game like this dragging out into the 13th inning before someone annoying like Yasiel Puig or Pederson hit a 2-run Home Run off of Gilmartin and backflipped around the bases.

Fortunately, it didn't get that far. The Mets did nothing in their half of the 9th, and Jenrry Mejia performed some magic to get out of the 10th, including striking out Pederson with a runner on 3rd and 1 out. The Mets then created their own opportunity when Curtis Granderson, who all of a sudden has turned into Mr. Sparkplug, singled and then went to 2nd when Andre Ethier went after the ball like he was walking his dog. Following a botched sacrifice by Tejada and an intentional walk to Murphy, Don Mattingly made the curious decision to go to his closer Kenley Jansen right then and there to face Juan Uribe. And, of course, we know what happened, as Uribe took an 0-2 pitch and whacked it off the fence for the winning hit.

See? This is what happens when you have real, Major League hitters on your team. They come up against good pitchers and get big hits to help your team win games! A novel idea, no doubt, but you tell me if you think Eric Campbell would have gotten that hit. Or Johnny Monell. Or John Mayberry Jr. Or Danny Muno. Or anyone else of that particular ilk. This trade wasn't an earth-shattering move for the Mets but in two games you've already seen it pay off, if for no other reason than it gives the Mets actual viable options with their lineup, instead of the same old dreck that goes 0-for-4 every night and find it challenging to lay down a sacrifice bunt. It's nice, isn't it.

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