Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mic Drop

Ultimately, it is the end result of a game that matters the most, and less so the journey that a game takes to get to that end point. That's not always quite so apparent. On Monday night at Citi Field, however, it was, as an odd and incongruous 10 innings and 3 and a half hours of Baseball turned to elation as Yoenis Cespedes cranked a walkoff Home Run to give the Mets a crucial 2-1 victory in the opener of this 4-game series against the Mickey Mouse Marlins.

Getting to that point was, well, I'll call it interesting, and maybe that's being kind. It didn't seem to be an evening that would shape up in the Mets favor altogether, seeing as how they were throwing Rafael Montero out on the mound which is sort of tantamount to throwing your spaghetti at the wall to see if it's ready. The Marlins were throwing Jose Fernandez, who usually not only stifles the Mets but throws over-the-top celebrations in the process. To say nothing of the fact that the Mets lineup didn't include Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera or Jay Bruce, and Cespedes was probably playing on one leg again.

I wouldn't call either pitcher's effort on this night particularly good. Montero spent most of his evening getting two outs, then walking guys, and then getting the third out, and Fernandez more or less did the same, if only in a different order. Montero walked 6 in all over his 5 innings of work, and only by sheer will did he make it out of there unscathed. Certainly, the Marlins had opportunities. But in the 4th, he got Fernandez to ground out to end the inning, and in the 5th, he got Marcell Ozuna to swing at a sucker pitch and ground into a Double Play, the exact thing he needed at that moment.

Fernandez was a bit sharper, although not by much. He'd skidded through the 2nd inning, in spite of Celebrity Manager trying to cajole the Umpires into challenging a call without using his challenge, for no other reason that I can figure out other than he's just a total sack of shit. Meanwhile, he was leaving his pitcher out there to throw warmup tosses for 5 minutes. In the 4th, he started walking guys too, but the Mets couldn't come up with a hit of consequence either.

Montero departed after 5 and Fernandez after 6, and for a while both bullpens seemed to pick up where the starters left off. Sean Gilmartin worked around a 2-out hit in the 6th. Jerry Blevins gave up a walk in the 7th. Kyle Barroclough worked a clean inning. In the 8th, Addison Reed came in and appeared to follow suit, getting two outs before allowing a hustled double to Ichiro Suzuki, who seems to be the Anti-Marlin, the only redeeming quality of an irredeemable object. Xavier Scruggs followed, and he hit a line drive to left that looked to me to be an easy out, but I don't know whether Cespedes didn't have a good read, or it knuckled, or it wasn't quite as I saw it, but it sailed past Cespedes for a double, scoring Ichiro with the game's first run and sending me into a total snit because once again I was watching the Marlins do stupid Marlin things. It figured that after all of this, they would win on this crap.

But they didn't. Irritating fidget A.J. Ramos came in for the 8th and immediately gave up a double to Jose Reyes. The Marlins then started doing more Stupid Marlin Things, and pulled their corner infielders in to play for a bunt, while Ramos ran a reverse-wheel to try and pick Reyes off and nearly threw the ball into Center Field. Alejandro De Aza did not bunt, but instead flew out to Left, and perhaps if anyone other than Jose Reyes were on 2nd this would have accomplished nothing, but instead Reyes took off and made it to 3rd easily. Cespedes followed, and this was the sort of spot you wanted him up in. But Cespedes didn't need to do anything, as Ramos chucked a pitch to the backstop. It took a fortuitous carom to J.P. Regalbuto, who wheeled and threw back to Ramos at the plate, but his throw was lousy and Reyes probably would have beaten it anyway. In fact, all it accomplished was giving Ramos the opportunity to drop a knee on Reyes' neck and nearly decapitate him in the ensuing collision. While for a brief second it looked rather scary, Reyes eventually popped up and walked off, probably because who the hell wants to deal with Cortisone Shot Ramirez and his bunch of bullshit. To say nothing of the fact that, had Reyes departed, the Mets had no other option to play Shortstop. Walker was out, Cabrera somehow girded up his loins enough to pinch hit in the 7th, they made the asinine choice to option T.J. Rivera when Montero was activated and so they were stuck with a roster of 14 Pitchers, Rene Rivera and Bruce on the bench. Or at least it seemed that way. They'd already used Jacob deGrom to pinch hit and George and I were waiting for Birthday Boy Noah Syndergaard to take an AB.

Irregardless, Reyes stayed in the game and the game remained tied. Jeurys Familia allowed the Marlins nothing in the top of the 9th, and Mike Dunn got the first two men out in the last of the 9th, before Rene Rivera was announced as a pinch hitter. And, of course, here came Mattingly out of the dugout to make the total Dick move of taking out Dunn and bringing in Nick Wittgren, for no other reason than to force Collins to use Jay Bruce, the last guy on his bench. That was, perhaps, the most Marlin thing ever. It would have served him right if Bruce parked one in the seats, but his line drive was right in the glove of Scruggs, and it was off to Extra Innings.

I had, through 15 games this season, managed to avoid Extra Innings, in stark contrast to 2013, where it seemed like every game I went to went into extras. Josh Smoker came in for the Mets and struck out a pair of Marlins, punctuating his inning with a fist pump and celebration, perhaps just to stick it in the Marlins' ears a bit. Or maybe the kid was just feeling fired up. Wittgren retired the first two in the last of the 10th, and I figured this game wasn't going to end here, because he wouldn't throw Cespedes anything remotely close to the plate. Certainly, he couldn't be that dumb, could he? So I started thinking about 11th innings, and how late I could stick it out as it was a school night. But on the 1-1 pitch, Wittgren I guess was feeling his Wheaties a little bit and left a fastball a little to close to the outer half. You know, just the spot where Cespedes likes it.

And, of course, you know the rest. All the machinations and weird, paceless Baseball that had gone down to that point was just backstory to the real show, which was the missile Cespedes fired into the Left Field seats, you know, one of those shots that was gone as soon as he hit it. Following his requisite bat flip and 40-second Home Run trot, Cespedes was then doused with all sorts of odd liquid, some chewing gum, and eventually he was crowned by Reyes. Generally, I don't stick around for the postgame interview, but on this night I did. Probably because after jumping around and yelling, I needed to collect my bearings before heading downstairs. Or because I just needed to cap it all off by hearing whatever Cespedes had to say. Then again, if you asked me what he said, I probably couldn't tell you. Whatever it was, the Mets had won, they pulled even with the Marlins and now just take it from there.

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