Some team sports are more dependent on individual performances than others. Baseball, pitchers aside, is much more of a holistic endeavor than, say, watching LeBron James carry a “Who’s Who? No, Really, Who?” lineup to deep playoff runs in multiple seasons. But on certain nights, all roads lead through one player’s singular performance. For the Mets, their bane manifested itself in Christian Yelich, a player who taketh, taketh, gaveth for an abrupt second, and taketh again.
The first few innings of the game were a textbook pitcher’s duel between Jacob deGrom (as expected) and Jose Urena (maybe not). Each worked two scoreless innings, with deGrom striking out four. Danger lurked, however, as his pitch count was too high for comfort, getting behind in multiple counts, walking two in the second and working the upper part of the strike zone with limited success in getting strikes called. The bottom of the second was New York’s first chance to strike, when a Michael Conforto double and walks of James Loney and Travis d’Arnaud loaded the bases for deGrom. He hit a ball that, were the outfield playing normally, would’ve dropped in for a hit, but Yelich’s closer positioning gave him the perfect opportunity to make a diving catch.
Yelich, however, wasn’t done. After stealing a base off a walk in the second, he knocked Ichiro Suzuki home on a two-out single to score the game’s first run. In the fifth, he singled, stole second and then scored on a Jeff Francoeur double. The Marlins would add another run in the fifth, extending their lead to 3-0. In the sixth inning, Jay Bruce hit just his third home run as a Met to lessen the Marlins’ comfort. Yelich, however, had something to say about that. After an Ichiro single and Martin Prado walk, Yelich knocked Josh Smoker out of the game with a three-run shot. With the Mets’ seemingly magical run back into playoff contention, the thought that the magic simply ran out in this game would be warranted. But they weren’t to be counted out! – not without a fight.
The bottom of the eighth inning was shaping up to be just the spark the offense needed to retake the game. Starting off the inning with a Curtis Granderson double, Kelly Johnson single and Bruce RBI knock, the score was 6-2 with men on first and second and no outs. Wilmer Flores then was walked to load the bases, and Conforto came up in what had to be the cosmos aligning for his rightful redemption. Only it wasn’t to be – he hit a soft dribbler to double-up Johnson at home and himself at first. Yoenis Cespedes entering to hit seemed less important than before, and he struck out without putting up much resistance in the at-bat. Asdrubal Cabrera then hit a two-run blast with no outs in the ninth, but three quick outs once again extinguished the Mets’ rally. Some nights it’s just not meant to be.
Though the Mets have a lot to be excited about over the last two weeks, last night would’ve been a much-needed exclamation mark. Instead of finding themselves just a game back of the Cardinals, they are two back with the Marlins only two back of them. Every game matters at this point in the season, and it’ll take efforts like deGrom finding his command and not throwing 102 pitches in five innings to put them on a viable path to the playoffs.
Photo credit: Wendell Cruz – USA Today Sports