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It Takes 25 (for Starters)

Any baseball game is a good one, of course, but the Mets played a fun one against the Phils on Sunday — you had some exciting home runs and other big hits, good starting pitching, some nifty plays in the field, and drama. Though not too much drama [1]. You also had contributions from people you expected and ones you didn’t. Which was a useful reminder that teams with October aspirations get there by relying on a lot more than eight members of the starting lineup and five starting pitchers. They need a lot more than 25 guys, even — you’ll need noteworthy performances from momentary relievers, infield fill-ins, third catchers, spot starters and more. Here’s a roll call for Sunday’s game, from the expected to the less so:

Bartolo Colon [2]: The big man, noted at 210 by an apparently straight-faced Ron Darling [3] before game time, wasn’t masterful but was his usual fuss-free self, fanning six to move to 6-1 on the season. (Less amusing: His inability to get a bunt down in the fifth with the Mets down 2-1.) But still: Bartolo Colon has walked one guy in 2015. One! And to think a lot of us were bemoaning that second year of his contract.

Curtis Granderson [4]: Colon’s failure bunting didn’t matter thanks to Granderson, who hit a laser-beam home run off fellow base-trotter Chad Billingsley [5] to put the Mets back up 3-2. I’ll take more of that, please.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis [6]: It hasn’t been a season to remember for Kirk, who shaved off baseball’s best beard and then had to confront an unhirsute batting average. But Nieuwenhuis got it done Sunday, with an RBI double, an alert steal of third that became a run when Darrin Rupp threw the ball down the line, and a skidding catch in foul territory for the final at-bat of the game. He also allowed the Phils a potentially critical free base with an ill-advised throw home, but on balance it was a good day for a player who needed a good day really badly.

Johnny Monell [7]: Spring training’s star began his Mets career with a good at-bat Saturday, then collected his first hit today with an eighth-inning double off Jeanmar Gomez [8], one of those balls in the gap that seems to speed up once it hits grass. Doubles for your side are by definition good things, but this one was critical, bringing in Anthony Recker [9] and Ruben Tejada [10] to turn a 5-4 Mets lead into something more comfortably Colonesque. And when was the last time you saw one backup catcher drive in another backup catcher? Get Elias on the phone!

Ruben Tejada: Man, dude has more lives than a whole litter of cats. On Saturday night Tejada saved the Mets from disaster in the eighth with a backhand stab in the hole, then coolly got his bearings for a quick flip to Dilson Herrera [11] and an amazingly welcome 6-4-3 double play. On Sunday, Jeurys Familia [12] began the ninth inning by allowing a single to Carlos Hernandez [13]. A fielder’s choice replaced Hernandez with Carlos Ruiz [14], but then Ben Revere [15] hit a Baltimore chop to the lip of the infield at second. That threatened to bring Freddy Galvis [16] to the plate as the tying run, but Tejada somehow used his glove like a Ping-Pong paddle, goosing it to Duda for the out. The play looked like an optical illusion — the ball barely registered as in Tejada’s glove at all.

Ryan Howard [17]: No, this doesn’t say Alex Torres [18], because the smaller, beturbaned member of the Torri is a hot mess right now, unable to locate the plate. After Saturday night’s horrifying walkfest, Terry Collins went back to Torres in the eighth with one out and the tying run on second. Torres immediately walked Revere, which is basically impossible. He retired Galvis, but his pitches kept sailing inside to left-handed hitters, and he hit Chase Utley [19] to load the bases. That brought up Ryan Howard, and surely Collins would remove Torres and go to Sean Gilmartin [20]. Nope; Terry stuck with Torres and his suddenly theoretical grasp of the strike zone. So Howard, a 12-year veteran, inexplicably swung at the first pitch, grounding out to Duda and short-circuiting the Phils’ chances for the day. Amazing.

Angel Hernandez: Every Mets fan’s favorite umpire made his presence known early, ruling Revere safe on the first play in the bottom of the first. Um, no. Replay showed Angel was wrong, which was doubly delicious for Mets fans. If Major League Baseball would like to improve the world’s greatest sport, it could do so very quickly by throwing Angel Hernandez into a pit of wolves telling Angel Hernandez to find another line of work. Failing that, at least we have replay — though Angel, rather memorably, turned to replay and still managed to screw up [21] a home-run call in Cleveland two years ago, boning the A’s out of a ninth-inning tie. If that seems impossible, well, like so much else about this game Angel Hernandez is amazing in his own way.