|Teammates mobbed the Mets' Kirk Nieuwenhuis after his game-winning hit with two out in the bottom of the ninth. (NYTimes.com)|
After Heath Bell walked in the tying run after a 13-pitch at bat by Justin Turner, Nieuwenhuis launched a rocket to right over Giancarlo Stanton's head to give the Mets a dramatic 3-2 win over the Marlins.
The Good Stuff:
- It started and ended with Captain Kirk this afternoon. Nieuwenhuis led off with a triple Stanton had trouble corralling in right and was brought home immediately by a Ruben Tejada sac fly. Kirk finished the day 3-5 with the run and the all-important RBI in the 9th (see below).
- Not much happened in the way of offense until the 9th, when Heath Bell entered to close it out for Miami, who led 2-1. You may remember last year that it was with Heath Bell on the mound to close it out for the Padres that produced New York's best win of the 2011 season. Even with a new cap on, it appears the Mets have Heath's number.
- David Wright led off with a full-count walk and went to second on a Lucas Duda groundout. Ike Davis then walked on 4 pitches, and he was joined on base by Josh Thole, who also went 3-2 before taking ball 4.
- Up came Justin Turner to pinch-hit. After going down 0-2 early on a called strike and foul ball, his chances didn't look too good. But you have to remember, as unlikely as it seems, Justin Turner is one of the most clutch hitters on this team. He proved it last season, and with the bases loaded and everything to lose, Turner went to work. Foul ball. Ball 1. Foul. Ball 2. Foul. Ball 3. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. On the 13th pitch of the at-bat that included 8 foul balls, Bell missed outside and Le Grande Orange Jr. was on base with the game-tying walk.
- After Davis was thrown out at the plate on Scott Hairston's groundball, Nieuwenhuis stepped up to finish what he started. On a 1-0 fastball, Bell's 46th pitch of the 9th inning, Captain Kirk crushed one to the wall that Stanton couldn't reach, and the celebration was on with a W, a sweep, and a pie in the face from a member of I'm guessing the clubhouse crew.
A little thin on the cream, don't you think?
- With the offense in neutral in the innings in between, it was up to pitching to keep it close, and Jon Niese did just that with a 7-inning, 2-run, 4-hit performance in which he struck out 6. Ramon Ramirez came in to handle the 8th and 9th innings and kept the Marlins from plating any more.
- New York caught a break in the 8th with 1 out and runners on the corners. Jose Reyes came up and punched a groundball to Ike Davis at first. Instead of opting for a single out, Davis tossed over to Ruben Tejada at second to start what was to be a 3-6-3 double play. A risky move considering Reyes's famous speed, Tejada's throw back to Davis at first was just late, but first base umpire CB Bucknor held up his fist for the third out of the inning. A stunned Jose could only stand there with a baffled face, producing the final image in an underwhelming return to Citi Field. Reyes finished the series 1-12, which is as much Good Stuff as anything else.
- There is the matter of those 7 innings in the middle where the New York bats were put to sleep under the spell of Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco was in line for the W after 7 innings of 1-run, 5-hit ball. Aside from Nieuwenhuis's triple in the 1st, the Mets had no answers for the Miami starter.
- New York also made a different kind of history this afternoon. Jordany Valdespin got his first start in left field, which means for only the third time in their existence, and the first time in more than 40 years, the Mets produced a starting lineup that was 100% home grown. The entire starting 9 started out their baseball careers in the Met organization. For the last time that happened, you have to go all the way back to September 19, 1971, when the Amazin' lineup was as follows:
- Teddy Martinez, 2B
- Bud Harrelson, SS
- John Milner, LF
- Ed Kranepool, 1B
- Mike Jorgensen, CF
- Ken Singleton, RF
- Duffy Dyer, C
- Tim Foili, 3B
- Jerry Koosman, P
- What this means is that we may have to start reevaluating the way we remember the Omar Minaya years. He may have been responsible for some pretty awful free agent deals and contract extensions (3 years, $36 million for Oliver Perez, anyone?), but he sure knew how to draft and spot young talent. The culmination of those years occurred today.
Way too early to say so, but we may have just seen the best series of 2012. Let's take a look at the facts: after dropping 5 of 6, the Mets respond with great starting pitching, solid bullpen outings, and clutch hitting, and it gives them not only a sweep, not only a sweep against a division rival, but a sweep over the division rival that stole a former face of the franchise. How much sweeter can you get?
All I know is the Mets will have a sweet flight out to Denver tonight, where they'll begin a western road trip with a 3-game set against the Colorado Rockies. Ike Davis will also return to the sight where his season was ended in shocking fashion last year. Perhaps he just left it all at Coors Field and will pick it back up again this weekend. Only time will tell, but that thin Rocky Mountain air may be just the thing to jump start him.