Now THAT was an entertaining game.
Late April is still a period where you’re acknowledging first times, and this was one I’d been waiting for: the first exhilarating win that leaves a contact high, so you’re up for hours watching replays and reading recaps and searching for hashtags with a goofy, slightly dazed grin.
But man oh man, it was a game where every single inch mattered.
First up, some respect for Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. You could see tonight why Wheeler will be a top-of-the-rotation ace if he can master his mechanics — he has four plus pitches, the best of them a 95 MPH fastball with movement, which makes up for a fair number of mistakes. And d’Arnaud brought Wheeler along like a veteran instead of his contemporary, by turns congratulating him and chiding him. Plus his pitch-framing was, as usual, sublime. The high point was the 1-1 pitch to Adeiny Hechavarria in the sixth, with the Marlins down one with two out, but with runners at first and third and Wheeler having thrown 108 pitches. D’Arnaud called for a fastball on the outside corner, sat motionless as always, and caught the pitch on the black, receiving it like it was an egg. Strike? Maybe, maybe not — but d’Arnaud ensured home-plate ump Andy Fletcher saw it that way. Instead of hitting with a 2-1 count, Hecheverria was looking at 1-2, and Wheeler’s next pitch (his last of the evening) was an evil diving slider dipping below the same spot. Hechavarria had no chance — none.
Incidentally, the 1-2 change-up Gonzalez Germen threw to Jarrod Saltalamacchia with two out in the seventh? Very similar in terms of location, and also perfectly framed by d’Arnaud. Germen took two happy steps off the mound before realizing Fletcher had called it a ball, which I didn’t think it was. Can’t win ‘em all, as we found out two pitches later, when Saltalamacchia slammed a ball over the fence to scuttle Wheeler’s win. Germen then promptly served up another homer to Garrett Jones for a shocking, thoroughly unpleasant Marlins lead.
But hey, every satisfying story throws a shocking reversal at the audience in the final reel, leaving the good guys in mortal peril.
I wouldn’t like to rewind to the beginning of the ninth inning and try to win again, but it worked out.
Lucas Duda dropped a little parachute in front of Christian Yelich for an excuse-me single off Steve Cishek. Terry then asked d’Arnaud to bunt, and then Bobby Abreu sliced a ball into left, but Yelich was perfectly positioned and we were down to our last out. No worries, because Omar Quintanilla continued to make me feel bad by turning in a terrific at-bat, working the count to 3-2 and slicing one a little more sharply than Abreu had. Yelich — who was busy in the ninth — cut it off nicely and had Duda dead to rights, but fell down. Tie game, Quintanilla on first. Up stepped pinch-hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who blasted a ball up the gap in left-center. It looked like it might win the game for the Mets, but Marcell Ozuna sprinted over and just managed to cut it off on the warning track, forcing Tim Teufel to reluctantly but wisely hold Quintanilla at third.
No matter, because Curtis Granderson was coming up — Curtis Granderson whose skinny batting average and fat contract have not worried Mets fans in the least in the early going, no siree. An optimist might have said Granderson had been hitting in bad luck of late, and that optimist might have been right. Granderson hit an 0-1 offering from Cishek hard on the ground … right to Jones at first.
Correction: right under Jones at first. Ballgame.
Ain’t baseball marvelous sometimes?