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Turning Points Can Be Easy to Miss

Bartolo Colon [1] going for the cycle! Leaping grabs from Jose Reyes [2]! Bullets fired by Yoenis Cespedes [3]! Asdrubal Cabrera [4] going deep from both sides of the plate — and making a nifty play to short-circuit the Phillies!

And of course Wilmer Flores [5] sending one into the Flushing night to make a tense ballgame so much more relaxed.

That was fun [6]. Unfortunately, the scoreboard-watching hasn’t been as much fun — the Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals have already won and the Giants are pummeling the Braves — but at least there’s scoreboard-watching to be done, with the Mets refusing to flatline despite daily injuries and a rotation that now features the understudies’ understudies.

But let’s go back to Wilmer’s big moment, and the wackiness that preceded it.

There was no shortage of wackiness. The bottom of the fifth began with Bartolo lacing a fastball over Freddy Galvis [7]‘s head, a ball that was on a startled Aaron Altherr [8] before he could adjust, sending Altherr to the wall and Bartolo to second. Reyes then dropped a little blooper just inside the right-field line — one of those parachutes into no man’s land that’s a guaranteed double. It was, except Bartolo had rumbled to third and halted there to vent clouds of steam.

No matter, right? Cabrera, who’d gone back-to-back with Reyes in the first for a 2-0 Met lead, hit the first pitch he saw to Maikel Franco [9] at third. Colon made a half-hearted attempt to deke Franco, which went about as well as you imagined. One out, but here came Cespedes, who’d nearly decapitated poor Phillies starter Adam Morgan [10] back in the first. Cespedes didn’t connect this time, but rapped a grounder to Cesar Hernandez [11] at second.

Hernandez was playing back, conceding the run, but Colon didn’t break on contact. He didn’t break at all. Poor Reyes — who in most innings would have moved up to third when Cabrera hit into a fielder’s choice and then scored on Cespy’s grounder — was still pacing around at second, like a dog taken to the park and then unaccountably left leashed while lovingly gnawed Frisbees and spit-soaked tennis balls filled the air. The Mets were about to pull off the difficult but decidedly Metsian feat of starting an inning with consecutive doubles and not scoring.

Neil Walker [12] stood between Morgan and escape. Morgan started Walker with two straight balls, but then got him to pop a change-up into foul territory behind first. It was a tough play, but there was air under the ball and Hernandez, right fielder Peter Bourjos [13] and Ryan Howard [14] were all converging on it.

Bourjos probably had the best shot at the ball — Hernandez had too far to go and Howard was looking over his shoulder — but he pulled up when he saw Howard steaming towards the angle of stands. Catching it would have been a good play, one deserving of praise, but not an impossible one. And Howard was there. But he’d gone a bit too far; the ball came over his left shoulder instead of his right, and plopped to the ground just out of reach of his outstretched arms.

Walker, given another life, fouled off four more pitches, then took two balls. The bases were loaded. And then, as is so often the case with baseball, what had unfolded so slowly reached a speedy conclusion: Morgan’s first pitch to Flores was a low fastball that Wilmer golfed over the fence.

We had lots to cheer for, but the turning point Friday night wasn’t the Flores grand slam — not really. It was a modest curling pop, one that neither Hernandez nor Bourjos nor Howard converted into the out that his pitcher desperately needed. A little thing, but then baseball so often turns on little things.