FLUSHING, N.Y. (FAFIF) — The Jaws of Defeat expressed bafflement after being certain it had secured the New York Mets within its formidable bite at Citi Field Tuesday night.
“Huh?” the bewildered Jaws of Defeat asked. “Where did the Mets go? I was sure I had them.”
The Mets indeed appeared all but ensconced inside the Jaws of Defeat at multiple intervals in their game against the Colorado Rockies as they built an early lead but stopped scoring; allowed the Rockies to tie them and put go-ahead runners on base; demonstrated disturbing offensive ineptitude; and let a second lead, in the ninth inning, dangle dangerously close to extinction.
“I’m telling you, I had the Mets right in here,” a visibly disturbed Jaws of Defeat insisted after New York came away with a 3-2 win over Colorado. “Right here! How could I not have them?”
Observers credited a number of factors for the Mets’ escape from the Jaws of Defeat, most notably a series of defensive plays that thwarted both the Rockies and the Jaws of Defeat. Several individual acts of defense stood out, beginning with John Buck’s pickoff of Dexter Fowler, who had walked to start the game.
“See, I thought that was weird,” the Jaws of Defeat explained. “A leadoff walk to a speedster — I was salivating already. And then in the bottom of that inning, I got another surprise.”
The Jaws of Defeat was certain that with two outs and a runner on, the Mets’ first chance to score would amount to naught when surprise-cleanup hitter Ike Davis, who entered Tuesday’s action batting .188, stepped in for his initial plate appearance.
“Ike? Batting fourth?” the Jaws of Defeat asked in a clearly mocking manner. “I try not to look ahead, but I was pretty much tying a bib around my neck.”
Davis, however, surprised the Jaws of Defeat with a double that sent baserunner Marlon Byrd to third, setting up Juan Lagares’s two-run triple. Mets starter Jenrry Mejia went back to the mound with a 2-0 lead and proceeded to retire nine of the next ten Rockies he faced. The score didn’t budge until the fifth, as the Mets couldn’t touch emergency Rockies starter Chad Bettis, while a Davis error set up Nolan Arenado’s sacrifice fly that trimmed Mejia’s advantage to 2-1.
“Ohmigod!” the Jaws of Defeat exclaimed. “Could it have been any more perfect? Another screwup from Ike, Mejia beginning to crack — I have to admit I was licking my lips.” A ground ball off the bat of DJ LeMahieu that appeared ticketed for center field, however, wound up smothered by a diving Daniel Murphy, who flipped to Omar Quintanilla to begin a rally-killing 4-6-3 double play, delivering Mejia from further trouble.
“Murphy?” an incredulous Jaws of Defeat inquired. “He can play second base like a second baseman all of a sudden? Weren’t they going to move him to third or some such ridiculousness?”
Mets manager Terry Collins had floated a number of possible scenarios to compensate for the absence of injured third baseman David Wright, without whom both the Mets defense and lineup have been severely compromised. The Mets, however, had called up top prospect Wilmer Flores, Tuesday, and left Murphy in place. Flores had a rough first day, going hitless in four at-bats and committing what shaped up as a costly error in the sixth.
“Oh, the sixth,” the Jaws of Defeat lamented. “The sixth was when I was sure I would do some serious clamping before the night was over.”
Although Mejia had been sailing along, having struck out seven Rockies in the first five innings, his momentum was disrupted when home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez suffered an unusual injury after Charlie Blackmon, pinch-hitting for Bettis to lead off the sixth, attempted to bunt his way on. The ball took an odd bounce after being bunted foul and struck Gonzalez in his jaw (no relation to those of Defeat). The game was delayed as Gonzalez was helped off the field and would be played with only three umpires the rest of the way. When play resumed, Blackmon blasted Mejia’s third pitch over the center field fence.
“The Mets were screwed, right?” the Jaws of Defeat figured. “Young pitcher, doing great and then something crazy happens. The floodgates were opening.”
After getting one out, Mejia’s sixth worsened. He allowed a single to Corey Dickerson before Flores mishandled Troy Tulowitzki’s hard grounder that scooted into left field. The pitcher then walked Michael Cuddyer to load the bases, signaling the end of Mejia’s night.
“With the bases full of Rockies,” the Jaws of Defeat calculated, “it was clearly a matter of minutes before I’d have the Mets right where I wanted and expected them.”
But to the Jaws of Defeat’s surprise, the Mets didn’t arrive as he thought they would. Wilin Rosario’s line drive to center off reliever Carlos Torres was caught by Lagares, who threw a perfect strike to John Buck, preventing any thought the Rockies had of sending Dickerson home. The throw, however, appeared a moot point one batter later when the dangerous Todd Helton produced a sinking line drive that, if it were to fall in, would score at least two of the Rockie baserunners.
“Of course it was going to fall in,” the Jaws of Defeat had predicted. “How could it not?”
Eric Young, Jr., whom the Rockies traded to the Mets in June for minor league pitcher Collin McHugh, dove and caught Helton’s ball, keeping the game tied at two.
“I did not see that coming,” the Jaws of Defeat admitted. “Why exactly did Colorado trade Young again?”
It was a question the visitors to Citi Field would be asking themselves a little later. The Rockies and Mets exchanged zeroes through the top of the eighth, New York helped along by another impressive sliding catch, this one from Marlon Byrd in right field. Torres and Scott Atchison combined to keep the Rockies off the board, while the bottom of the Mets’ order remained totally ineffective versus the Colorado bullpen.
“Think about it,” the Jaws of Defeat suggested. “The Mets score twice in the first inning and then they go into the tank. Basically nothing out of the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth spots in the order.” Flores, Buck, Quintanilla, Mejia and pinch-hitter Andrew Brown did in fact combine to go 0-for-12 with a walk, lending a sense of inevitability to the Mets’ eventual demise.
“Half of their lineup basically didn’t exist,” the Jaws of Defeat surmised. “Naturally I thought I’d be chomping down hard.”
The bottom of the eighth proved otherwise, as the Mets scratched out the makings of a potential rally. Young singled off Wilton Lopez to lead off the inning and, with one out, tagged up on Byrd’s flyout to Fowler in deep center. Rockies manager Walt Weiss opted to intentionally walk Davis — his fourth time on base on the evening — and pitch to Juan Lagares. Lagares hit an infield dribbler that seemed to vindicate Weiss’s decision, but the rookie beat the play at first, while Young raced around third from second and scored ahead of a late throw from Helton.
“I did not see that coming, either,” the Jaws of Defeat acknowledged.
With closer Bobby Parnell placed on the disabled list earlier Tuesday, Collins entrusted the 3-2 lead to LaTroy Hawkins, which filled the Jaws of Defeat with anticipatory glee. “I won’t deny that Hawkins has been pretty decent this season,” the Jaws of Defeat reasoned. “But c’mon, LaTroy Hawkins? He’s, what, a hundred? He gave up that home run to Victor Diaz, for crissake.”
Despite Hawkins’s long and mixed track record, including the ninth-inning home run he surrendered to then-Mets rookie Diaz during the 2004 pennant race when the pitcher was a Cub, the 40-year-old righthander took the mound in search of his first save as a Met and only his second in the past four seasons. After getting two quick outs, Hawkins ran into trouble, giving up consecutive singles that put the tying run on third. Weiss called on Yorvit Torrealba to pinch-hit for Lopez.
The Jaws of Defeat referred to Torrealba’s insertion as “beautiful. I mean, this is the guy the Mets tried to sign and he sued them.” Torrealba was on the verge of becoming the Mets’ catcher in the offseason prior to 2008 but the deal was never completed and Torrealba initiated a grievance procedure against the club that was eventually dismissed. “What a Mets thing — their ancient reliever getting beat by somebody they spurned so long ago that they were actually good when it happened.”
But the Jaws of Defeat’s best-laid plans fell victim to Davis’s nifty glovework at first, resulting in a catch that stood as the last of a half-dozen outstanding plays that in one way or another thwarted a Rockie rally. Torrealba sharply lined an 0-1 pitch foul, just wide of first, where Davis dove and nabbed it for the final out of the game.
While the Jaws of Defeat expressed dismay, disbelief and frustration, Victory issued a statement of gratitude, thanking the 50-60 Mets “for snatching me the hell out of there. I know from painful experience that the Jaws of Defeat is no place for a ballgame to get trapped.”