Sometimes baseball is hard to write about. This needn’t be because the game was uneventful – sometimes there’s just no clear thread linking the innings together, linking the plate appearances to one another with some sort of purpose. You’d think that in a game with 15 runs and one team continually breathing down the necks of the other (albeit with comfortable distance) that there would be easy narratives. But for whatever reason, the final regular season match-up of the New York Mets – St. Louis Cardinals simply didn’t reveal its secrets easily. Instead, we got performances all across the board from a Mets team that, once they scored their first run, never looked in danger of relinquishing the lead.
Before we get to the offensive performances, though, starting pitcher Seth Lugo notched his first big league win with a solid five innings of work. He wasn’t particularly flashy, posting a respectable five strikeouts but balancing it out with five combined walks and hits. The greatest amount of trouble he found himself in was in the third when the bases were loaded with two outs following a Yadier Molina single, Randal Grichuk double and Greg Garcia intentional walk. The intentional walk was to bring up Adam Wainwright, who had as stellar a night at the plate as he did on the mound, striking out on five pitches. Lugo left the game after warming up before the bottom of the sixth with a right calf injury, marking yet another Mets pitcher with injury troubles; the team said postgame that he’s expected to make his next start, but we’ve heard that one before. Uncharacteristically, even a subpar performance by the starter probably would’ve been enough for the Mets to get a much-needed win. This was thanks to a consistent offensive outburst.
In the top of the second, both after getting behind 0-2, James Loney singled and Curtis Granderson doubled to put men on second and third with no outs. Wilmer Flores came up and hit a sac fly to score Loney, putting the Mets up 1-0. They’d never look back. Granderson would reach again on an error in the top of the fourth, and Flores would be productive without making an out by doubling. With the same situation as the second, the Mets looked to add on runs. Alejandro De Aza would oblige, singling to score both. Even Lugo got in on the act by recording his first Major League hit, though it came without an RBI attached.
The fifth was truly where the Mets made it known that they would take this game. Yoenis Cespedes walked with one out, then a bizarre play happened. Loney blooped a single in shallow left that wasn’t handled properly by the Cardinals near the ball, providing Cespedes with the incentive to try for an extra base. He ran towards third and was met by Wainwright, whose glove came off as a result of Cespedes’ slide. He was ruled safe and Flores, next up, reached first on an error by Garcia that scored Cespedes. Men were on first and third with one out, and the game’s biggest offensive star, De Aza, was up. He homered to right, putting the Mets up 7-0.
Though the Cardinals would ultimately score six runs of their own – two in each of the sixth, eighth and ninth innings – the game never appeared as if the tide would turn. Mets fans became increasingly vocal in the crowd as Cards faithful dwindled out of the stadium, and though Brandon Moss would hit his 24th and 25th homers of the year, it simply wasn’t enough to overtake the Mets’ offensive output.
“Overtaking” was the key word of this series: the Cards entered and leave as the second National League Wild Card team, but the Mets put themselves in great position to catch them over the season’s final 35 games. Only 3.5 games back after last night, the Mets begin an eminently winnable three-game series versus the Phillies that overwhelmingly favors their pitching match-ups. If the offense performs even half as well as they did tonight, the gap between the Mets and the teams in front of them in the Wild Card standings should diminish by the end of the series.
Photo credit: Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports