Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ye Sloggers

The early portion of last night's Mets/Pirates game held to the script that I'd predicted. Noah Syndergaard wasn't quite at his best, and the Pirates dinged him for a pair of runs in a sweaty, 30-pitch 1st inning. Meanwhile, the Mets patchwork lineup was doing nothing against Jameson Taillon. Through 3 innings, Taillon was having a dream debut, carving up the Mets without much extraneous effort.

But somehow, the Mets fought back, and because of the nature of the game and the nature of the Mets at this particular point in time, it ended up being an unlikely source to get the big hit as Ty Kelly hit his first Major League Home Run with 2 outs in the 4th inning to tie the game. Kelly was later seen in the dugout jubilantly pumping his fists, and perhaps he was acting on behalf of all Mets fans, because finally, someone had stepped up and gotten a key hit in a spot where the Mets desperately needed one.

Still, there was a long way to go for the Mets to get through this game. Syndergaard immediately handed the lead back to the Pirates in the last of the 4th inning, but as he can sometimes do, he made up for it himself by doubling and later scoring in the 5th on a Michael Conforto Sacrifice fly.

The game remained tied into the late innings. Syndergaard and Taillon both departed after 6, and it seemed like clockwork that the Pirates immediately jumped on the bullpen as no sooner had Jim Henderson hit the mound that the Pirates scored another 2 runs to go back ahead 5-3. This is how it's been for the Mets. Try to keep it close, try to take advantage of as many opportunities as you can and yet it's still not enough. PNC Park and Pittsburgh haven't been as awful for the Mets as, say, San Diego or Atlanta, but the Mets hadn't won a game there in 2 seasons, they hadn't beaten the Pirates period in 2 seasons, and it seemed as though this game was headed down a parallel track. It was enough to make me want to go to bed right there.

Again, though, the Mets got off the mat. A.J. Schugel walked Alejandro De Aza to start the 8th, departed in favor of Jared Hughes and Conforto re-re-tied the game with a 2-run Home Run. Again, somewhat unlikely, for although Conforto will eventually be a likely suspect, he hasn't looked much the part of late. Not that it's of particular concern right now because young hitters often go through valleys like this, but then again, it's a testament to his fortitude to come up and do something like this even when he's in the midst of an extended slump.

So, 5-5 and away we go again. Addison Reed put the Pirates to sleep in the 8th and again in the 9th, while the Mets did little against Tony Watson, and so it was off to Extra Innings. After playing a Doubleheader on Tuesday. And with a flight to Milwaukee coming up immediately afterward. Extra Innings, it seems, hasn't been a winning proposition for the Mets of late, even though they've managed to avoid them altogether for the most part this season. A few years ago, it seemed like the Mets would play Extra Inning games on a regular basis, primarily because they were often only good enough to extend games before disaster hit. It happens less now, I suppose, because they're more decisive in their wins and losses. Or this is just one of those vicissitudes of Baseball. Probably that. But here we were on June 8th and the Mets were playing just their 3rd Extra Inning game of the season after having lost their first two, so one couldn't be blamed for having a kind of ominous feeling. Even after the Mets rallied against Cory Luebke and scored a run to take the lead for the first time all night on a dying quail of a hit from Wilmer Flores, I still felt uneasy.

Jeurys Familia, who for as shaky as he's often looked at times this season still hasn't blown a save, came in for the last of the 10th and immediately walked Fake Paul LoDuca. I mean, if he was going to do that, couldn't he have just saved the time and the pitches by sticking it in Cervelli's ribs like he deserved? While I was still stewing over this, Familia walked Jordy Mercer. Now he was in some shit. You could just see the gap hit coming and Cervelli doing a back flip across Home Plate in celebration. But Sean Rodriguez did what was most helpful and hit into a Double Play. So what does Familia do next? HE WALKS THE NEXT BATTER! I don't know what the hell the deal was, but Familia just seemed bound and determined to make this as difficult as possible. He was all over the place. David Freese followed and now I wasn't thinking game-winning hit, I was thinking game-tying hit and 15-inning debacle where they have to put deGrom in Left Field and Matt Reynolds pitches. But, Freese struck out, looking at the one good Slider Familia threw in the inning. Familia probably looked as bad as a closer could possibly look in a Save situation without actually blowing the Save and so, for as odd as it still sounds, remained perfect on the season in Save opportunities.

So, the Mets managed to escape Pittsburgh with their first win there in two years. I mean, sometimes you need to win a horrendous slog of a game like this in order to get yourselves back in line. A loss in the big picture probably wouldn't have been a disaster, although it would have meant 4 in a row and a legit losing streak. It would, however, have led to large amounts of panic in the press and among fans, and also meant that there would officially be a "Pittsburgh Thing" with the Mets. If nothing else, I'm glad to avoid either of those things for the moment.

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