MLB: New York Mets at San Diego Padres

Game recap May 8: Matt Harvey’s starting to look like his old self

Bartolo Colón’s home run on Saturday might be looked upon as a turning point for the Mets this season. I say that only half-facetiously. Sure, they have played well. The Mets very recently won eight consecutive games, and they are eight games over .500. This is a good club. But Bartolo’s home run could be seen as the moment the Mets were injected with life. The moment that they saw the impossible, thus making everything else a little more probable. It was by no means a perfectly played game (Jim Henderson balked in a run after he forgot to throw to home midway through his windup), but imperfection is precisely what made Bartolo’s home run an occasion. The Mets seemed to have played a little bit lighter. Ultimately, they squeezed out a narrow victory.

The Mets scored their first two runs in the second with two outs. Kevin Plawecki started things off with a double to left field. With Eric Campbell and Matt Harvey due up next, the Mets’ run expectancy in the inning very likely defied whatever any matrix said about it. But Campbell scored Plawecki with a single to center field. It was not a hard hit ball. Harvey kept things alive with a single to right field. It was, similarly, not a hard hit ball—but, whatever. After Curtis Granderson walked, Asdrubal Cabrera drove in Campbell with a well-placed opposite field single to left, giving the Mets a 2-0 advantage. Yoenis Céspedes hit his 11th home run in the third inning to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.

Matt Harvey pitched his best game of the season. It was the first time all year the number of innings Harvey pitched was more than the number of hits he gave up. Harvey struck out ten batters and allowed four hits in six innings. He did have a rough fifth inning. Christian Bethancourt hit a two-run home run, cutting the Mets’ lead to one. The homer was Harvey’s blemish for the day—nothing that couldn’t be overcome though.

The inning had another critical moment. With two outs, Harvey struck out opposing pitcher Andrew Cashner. But the pitch was wild, and Cashner was able to reach first base to extend the inning. Jon Jay then drilled a pitch to right field for extra bases. Cashner legged his way to third base, and Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman sent him home in an attempt to tie the game. Cashner slid headfirst into home, but an excellent set of relays from Granderson to Wilmer Flores to Plawecki, resulted in an inning ending out at home (the play was reviewed and upheld).

More significantly, Cashner had to depart the game after just five pitches in the fifth inning due to hamstring tightness. Reliever Brad Hand entered the game, and he allowed what would eventually be the winning run, the Mets’ fourth on the day. This one-run rally began when Harvey doubled to deep center field. According to Gary Cohen, Harvey was “channeling his inner Bartolo Colón.” Harvey advanced to third on a groundout and scored after Cabrera knocked him in with a single, this time from the right side of the plate. It made it 4-2 in favor of the Mets. Henderson’s seventh inning balk made the game 4-3.

Drama appeared in the eighth inning. Reliever Jerry Blevins relieved Henderson, and he started the eighth by giving up a single to Jay. Addison Reed relieved Blevins, and he allowed back-to-back singles to Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. With the bases loaded and nobody out, the Padres were in a great position to at least tie the game. Terry Collins called upon Antonio Bastardo to see what he could do.

This is what he did: struck out Derek Norris, got Melvin Upton Jr. to pop out and struck out Alexei Ramirez. It was so close to going poorly, but it didn’t.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jeurys Familia came on to record the final three outs. Fittingly, the game ended after a spectacular play at third base by Campbell, whose second inning dribbler gave the Mets their first run. It wasn’t an easy win, but it was a team-oriented win. At least, that’s what it felt like. It was as if the Bartolo’s home run liberated the Mets to play at ease, but without interfering with their competitive edge. That’s all schlocky narrative stuff, obviously. It was a fun home run, but it’s not like it changed the Mets.

Oh, and the Mets are now in sole possession of first place.

Photo credit: Jake Roth – USA Today Sports

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