|Carlos Beltran's three-run home run in the third inning helped get the Mets back in Thursday's game against the Pirates. (NYTimes.com)|
The Mets secured their largest comeback in almost 11 years, rallying from an early 7-0 hole to beat the Pirates 9-8 and salvage a series split.
The Good Stuff:
- Carlos Beltran heard the message loud and clear. Down 7-0 in the bottom of the 3rd, his 3-run homer got the Mets on the board. Three innings later, his double off the wall opened the floodgates on a 4-run 6th. He also picked up another RBI in the 8th on a bases-loaded walk to finish the monster day 2-4 with 2 runs and 4 RBIs.
- Back to that 4-run 6th. With the bases loaded and two out, Ruben Tejada came through with a single to drive in both runs, his second straight game with a bases-loaded hit. Daniel Murphy then came on to drive another run home, and with Jose Reyes at the plate, Tejada scored on a passed ball. And just like that, all with two outs, New York had tied the game at 7.
- In the 8th, the Mets went ahead for good on one of the strangest sequences you will ever see. We'll talk more about that later. But Cliff's Notes will tell you that Ruben Tejada picked up his 3rd RBI of the day on a sac fly to score Willie Harris. Four walks later, they were up 9-7.
- While he gave up a leadoff triple and let him score three batters later, Fransisco Rodriguez nevertheless picked up his 16th save of the year, capping off four solid innings from the bullpen that stopped the bleeding and allowed the Mets to make their biggest comeback since June 30, 2000 against the Braves.
- There is the matter of how we managed to fall behind 7-0 in the first place. Mike Pelfrey's string of solid starts was blown up in the first three innings: he allowed 3 in the 1st, 3 in the 2nd, and another one in the 3rd. If Pelfrey's gonna have that kind of day at home against the Pirates, I have a bad feeling the next time he faces an actual good team.
Back to that sequence in the 8th.
- After Ronnie Paulino singled off Jose Veras to start the inning, Willie Harris came on to pinch run.
- Jason Isringhausen was due up at the plate, but Terry Collins sent out last night's starter, Chris Capuano, to pinch hit. Capuano already had three sac bunts on the season, so it was a calculated move to send your best-bunting pitcher out to advance Harris into scoring position.
- With a 1-1 count, Capuano appeared to foul off the pitch for the second strike. He was called back to the dugout, and out came Josh Thole to pinch hit for Capuano.
- All of a sudden, SNY's Gary Cohen notices something irregular. "Willie Harris is on second base. How did he get there?" Turns out that 1-1 pitch that appeared to be a foul ball never happened: Veras was called for a balk, advancing Harris to second. Therefore, Collins sent out Thole in Capuano's place not because he had two strikes on him, but because the Mets now had a runner in scoring position.
- Veras fires a strike to Thole that would have been the third if not for the balk. Rattled, Veras then throws it in the dirt, allowing Harris to advance to third. Thole ultimately walks, and on the very next pitch, Ruben Tejada skied one to center to bring Harris home for the go-ahead run.
In 2007, the Chicago Cubs were struggling. Then, on June 2nd, manager Lou Piniella went off the only way he knew how, getting himself thrown out of the game. The Cubs ended up winning their division that year. Sweet Lou's tirade was the turning point. Terry Collins' meltdown was not as extreme as Piniella's, but for at least one day, it appears to have paid off for the New York Mets.
The real challenge comes tomorrow in the form of the Atlanta Braves. After this weekend, which includes an appearance on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, we'll know whether Terry's message really stuck.