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The Textbook Advises

Ryan Schimpf [1] can blast home runs, but I’m not quite sure what he was doing in the bottom of the 11th, when Wilmer Flores [2] hit a ground ball his way with runners on first and third and one out. James Loney [3], who moves at the approximate speed of a continental shelf, was the runner on first. Flores, whose foot speed is also best measured in global epochs, was headed that way. Schimpf fielded the ball and did what the textbook advised: get the lead runner at home. But the textbook’s author hadn’t imagined a plodding Pangaea of Mets in the neighborhood. Schimpf threw a Lucas Duda [4] October strike homeward, nearly hitting a startled Neil Walker [5], and the Mets had won.

I don’t know, maybe Schimpf just wanted to see Styx.

This unexpected turn of events took the sting out of what had been another one of those nights for the Mets. They got off to a decent start, with newly re-returned Jose Reyes [6] walking and scampering to third on a errant throw by the catcher and then scoring on Walker’s single. That looked like it might actually be enough for Jacob deGrom [7], who made us dream of a no-hitter before Schimpf ruined the fun in the fifth, and then surrendered the skinny lead on a Yangervis Solarte [8] homer in the seventh.

In the bottom of the inning, the Mets did something they’ve rarely do: they picked up the shaggy pitcher who’s reclaimed the title of staff ace. Flores singled, Alejandro De Aza [9] walked, and Travis d’Arnaud [10] was called upon to bunt. One can argue about the wisdom of asking d’Arnaud to do so, but the base-out matrix [11] does make the sac bunt a numerically defensible strategy in that situation — it increases the chance of scoring at least one run in the inning by a small but real 6.6 percent.

Anyway, d’Arnaud laid down a beautiful bunt, Kelly Johnson [12] hit a sac fly, and the Mets seemed to be in business.

Except now it was Addison Reed [13] and Jeurys Familia [14] in the usual bind of Mets’ pitchers, needing to be perfect. Reed was, but Familia gave up a two-out blast to Wil Myers [15]. Not so fast, Tommy Shaw and … um, you other current members of Styx. There was free baseball to be played.

Free baseball that somehow went the Mets’ way. Disaster seemed to be in the cards, with Gabriel Ynoa [16] asked to make his big-league debut on a sticky night before a restive crowd that was tired of bad baseball. Shoved out in front of a firing squad, Ynoa earned a whatever-gun salute instead, with his first big-league strikeout capping a 1-2-3 inning. A few minutes later, Schimpf had happened [17] and Ynoa had his first W.

It’s eminently possible Ynoa will never have another win that easy, but hey, they all count. And what’s true for pitchers is true of teams too. Schimpf should have thrown the ball to the shortstop, but he didn’t and the Mets won. When teams are going well we treat wins like that as signs of opportunism and relentlessness, the hallmarks of winning clubs. The Mets aren’t going well, but let’s not poor-mouth an honest-to-goodness victory because of that. They were due having the little black cloud take up residence over someone else’s head for a change.