Monday, September 19, 2016

Pole Position

Sunday seems to have exemplified just how well things have been going for the Mets of late. Terry Collins essentially threw his "D" lineup out there against the Minnesota Twins, and in spite of holding a slim late lead remained firm in his desire to not use any of his everyday players, and won the game anyway. It's either that or this is just the sort of luxury you can take in the middle of September when you have 39 players on your active roster and you're playing a team that's on the precipice of 100 losses for the season.

Not playing at all were Jose Reyes, James Loney, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Addison Reed or Jeurys Familia. Asdrubal Cabrera made only a cameo appearance. Yoenis Cespedes refused a day off and ended up leaving early anyway due to illness. Appearing instead was a veritable motley crew of players involving Gabriel Ynoa, Michael Conforto, Alejandro De Aza, Matt Reynolds, Kelly Johnson and, for the first time in months, Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares even saw some action in the 9th inning. This lineup wasn't exactly gangbusters, but the 3 runs they generated against Kyle Gibson was enough as they won, 3-2, to finish off the sweep of the Twins.

It appeared early as though this lineup was going to run Gibson off the mound before he'd even gotten started. A walk, a hit and a hit batter loaded the bases with no outs, and cleanup hitter Michael Conforto picked up a 2-run single, and then Gibson walked the next guy, and already there was action in the Twins bullpen. But Travis d'Arnaud, who's totally off kilter with no clear direction to get him out of this tailspin, hit the ball right on the screws--right at Brian Dozier who easily doubled Conforto off 2nd and kind of righted Gibson's ship. After that, the Mets did little off him except for a T.J. Rivera Home Run in the 3rd that ended up holding up as the winning run.

Ynoa, on the other hand, acquitted himself well enough over 4.2 innings. Aside from some 2nd inning difficulty, Ynoa was by and large fine on a day in which Collins basically said anything beyond 4 solid innings was gravy, and he did that, and he probably could have finished the 5th, too, and Collins probably outfoxed himself by pulling Ynoa after allowing that 2 out hit in the 5th and it nearly bit him in the ass. It ended up taking two pitchers to get that 3rd out. Fortunately, nothing of consequence happened during that span.

After that, it was basically a by-committee day for the Mets. Erik Goeddel got the last out of the 5th, worked a clean 6th and vultured a win for his troubles. Josh Smoker handled the 7th. Fernando Salas allowed a monstrous Home Run to Kennys Vargas and a subsequent hit to Robbie Grossman, but he too got a pair of outs to start the 8th. Jerry Blevins came in and got Eduardo Escobar to finish out the 8th, and what the hell, at that point they may as well send him out for the 9th as well, and they did, and he very quickly and quietly set down the Twins in order to pick up his second save in the past week.

And, of course, later in the afternoon the Cardinals beat the Giants once again, and with that the Mets now find themselves clean in front in the NL Wildcard race. I'm still baffled at how this has all come to pass, but at the same time I'm not sure anyone can legitimately complain. After everything that's gone on, the Mets now find themselves heading into the season's final two weeks in possession of a Playoff spot and not only that, they'd host a Wildcard game on top of it. I know that in the past the final two weeks of the season have involved a lot of weird things for the Mets, and who knows what's coming down the pike this season, but the trepidation of prior seasons maybe doesn't seem quite so bad this year.

Then again, ask me that question in a week. Then ask me again in 10 days. And so on, and so forth...

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