MLB: Cincinnati Reds at New York Mets

Game recap April 26: Healthy Cespedes provides heroics with pinch-hit home run

Bartolo Colon squared off against Cincinnati lefty Brandon Finnegan in the second game of the Mets’ three game set with the Reds on Tuesday night. Finnegan, coming off a shellacking against the Cubs last time out, has seen some early season success, flirting with a no-hitter in Chicago on the 11th while pitching effectively in St. Louis and Philadelphia. Colon struggled his last time out as well, surrendering three runs to the Phillies in six innings. 

The Mets starter certainly wasn’t at his best today, often missing over the heart of the plate with his fastball and generally struggling to spot his pitches. The Reds made consistent hard contact, pushing out eight hits in five innings. Nevertheless, Big Sexy was able to keep the Mets in the game. He surrendered a sacrifice fly to Joey Votto in the third after being victimized by some poor defense, then gave up a two-run home run to Ivan DeJesus Jr. in the fourth, but wiggled his way out of the jams the Reds created. Versatile Logan Verrett (as Keith seems to have dubbed him) supported Bartolo with two shutout innings. 

Meanwhile, Finnegan was excellent, befuddling Met hitters for the first six innings. The Mets put the leadoff man on in every inning except the third, yet could muster only two hits (singles from Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson) and failed to score. Nothing aside from Conforto’s groundball single in the second was struck particularly well. It seemed to be one of those nights when the offense simply didn’t show up. 

Perhaps due to the current state of the Reds bullpen (calling it a tire fire would be kind), Reds manager Bryan Price sent Finnegan back out for the seventh inning. After striking out Wilmer Flores, Finnegan walked Juan Lagares and allowed a hard hit single from Kevin Plawecki to put runners at the corners with one out for the Mets. Lucas Duda loomed on deck as the presumptive pinch hitter. 

At this point, Price stood at the top step of the Reds dugout, presumably waiting for Duda to be announced into the game. In a truly befuddling move, Price walked to the mound before any announcement was made, allowing Terry Collins to pull a switcheroo and insert Yoenis Cespedes as the pinch hitter against the left handed Finnegan. Because he went to the mound early, Price locked in his left handed starter at 107 pitches against Cespedes. Price’s post game comments indicated that this was the matchup he wanted given Cespedes’ 0-for-4 history against Finnegan, which arguably makes his decision making appear even worse.

The result was predictably disastrous for the Reds, and equally glorious for the Mets, as Cespedes hit a first-pitch laser beam home run down the left field line to tie the game at three. Before the dust had even settled, Curtis Granderson hit an opposite field triple off new Red pitcher Tony Cingrani, and David Wright would drive Granderson in two batters later with a single to left. After being stymied all night, the Mets had a 4-3 lead. 

Addison Reed entered for the eighth and continued his stretch of early season dominance, blowing away two Reds with high heat and navigating an error by Wilmer Flores. Reed now has a 11.45 K/9, 2.45 ERA, and a 2.26 FIP on the year. Reed was also a waiver wire trade pickup last year. Thank you, Sandy. 

Michael Conforto hit a very impressive double on a pitch well off the plate inside to lead off the bottom of the eighth, but the Mets failed to score and handed a one-run lead to Jeurys Familia. Familia, still not quite at peak form but slowly getting there, induced two weak ground outs and a strikeout to breeze through the ninth inning to secure the Mets’ fifth straight victory and their tenth straight against the Reds. 

We don’t want to get too hyperbolic, so let’s put the caveats in front. This was an April game against a rebuilding Reds team with basically no bearing on the Mets division race or their playoff hopes. Still, while not quite as dramatic as Daniel Murphy’s game tying, three-run blast with two outs in the ninth against Atlanta last season, moments like Cespedes’s home run can grow to define a season. Momentum is largely a myth in baseball, but the Mets players have to be feeling close to invincible at the moment – their looks of exuberance on the bench as Cespedes rounded the bases confirms it.

Mets pitchers earned themselves a couple of accolades today to go with the win. Though he remains tied with Pedro Martinez for the second most wins for a Dominican born pitcher, Bartolo Colon passed the 3,000 innings pitched mark with his first inning strikeout of Joey Votto. Additionally, Logan Verrett got the win for the second straight night, making him the first Met pitcher to earn wins in back to back games since Joe Smith back in 2008.

Photo credit: Anthony Grupusso-USA Today Sports

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