One of the prevailing memes of the latter portion of this 2016 MLB season has been that nobody seems to want to win the National League Wild Card spots. The New York Mets, who we counted out of the playoffs in a staff post less than a month ago, clawed their way back into contention while the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals battled for the most disappointing team somehow still in the playoffs. As of the start of Thursday’s game, all three teams were tied at 80-72, the Giants and Cardinals coming off single losses while the Mets inexcusably got swept by the hapless Atlanta Braves. Shawn Brody summed up the response to that fact well yesterday with his concise “It’s just that…yeah.” So, with that in mind, and Steven Matz possibly out for the rest of the season, how would the Mets respond? As anybody who watched the game can attest, they responded like a team who wants nothing more than to play baseball late into October.
The stars of the show were those who, based on lineup order, should be the stars. The Mets’ 1-5 hitters accounted for ten of their eleven hits and all 9 of their RBIs; this, however, doesn’t do justice to the timing of many of these hits.
Curtis Granderson got things started off score-wise with a two-run shot to shallow right for his 29th of the year. His insane HR/RBI ratio, which was covered by Eric Garcia McKinley a month ago Thursday, now stands at an astounding 29/54. For the first four innings of Seth Lugo’s campaign, it seemed like this would be enough. In the top of the fifth, however, holding a 2-1 lead entering it, Lugo’s first two pitches went off Ryan Howard and Cameron Rupp’s bats for their 23rd and 16th home runs, respectively. The bottom of the inning would show the resilience that characterized the latter half of the game.
A comedy of errors led to Ty Kelly on third and Asdrubal Cabrera on second with two outs and Yoenis Cespedes up, looking to avenge his near-heroics of last night. Though he was 14-69 in September entering the night, Cespedes delivered with an RBI single to tie the game. Two innings later, the game still knotted at 3, Cespedes improved on this performance by knocking in Jose Reyes with a double to give the Mets the lead. As with Grandy’s homer, things looked up.
It didn’t take long for the optimism to wear off, as Addison Reed allowed men on first and third with one out when Maikel Franco came up to the plate. A cutter hung on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, leading to Franco hitting a three-run shot to give the Phillies the lead once again.
In the bottom of the ninth, Reyes came up with one out and Brandon Nimmo on base. Reyes hit a game-tying two-run homer that sent the crowd into a frenzy, and it appeared as if Jeurys Familia would enter the game to keep the Phillies’ score at six. This strategy worked for the 10th inning but began to falter in the 11th – Familia let a man score as did his replacement, Jerry Blevins, and the optics of the game suggested that the Mets were about to lose once again to a lower team in the NL East. With one out in the bottom of the 11th, the Mets’ offense ran off a three-fold series of events that quite possibly changed the entire course of their season: a Michael Conforto walk, Reyes single and Cabrera walk-off home run. For all of the criticism levied against the team in the wake of their series versus the Braves, tonight’s win proved that they want this Wild Card as much as anybody.
Photo credit: Andy Marlin – USA Today Sports