Mike Pelfrey turned in a throughly Pelfreyian start, equal parts Houdini, Ponzi, and Hindenberg. He loaded the bases in the first on a single and two walks, only to strike out Alfonso Soriano and get Marlon Byrd on a lineout to escape danger for the moment. He retired the next five Cubs he faced, but ceded a two-out double to Aramis Ramirez and a bomb to Carlos Pena, hit just to the right of the home run apple and pretty far up, too.
Chicago expanded its lead to 3-0 with a leadoff double by Byrd and a triple from Bryan LaHair. It looked like LaHair could have been called out at third on the relay throw, but he was eventually called out at the plate while trying to tag up on a sac fly, on a play where he could have been called safe. So it all evens out! Hooray, human element!
Meanwhile, the Mets' lineup looked ill-equipped at first to deal with Cubs starter Casey Coleman, as he set down the first five batters he faced, three via the strikeout. A two-out double by Jason Bay in the second was rendered harmless by a K of Nick Evans, and Coleman proceeded to set the Mets down in order again in the third.
But Coleman's mojo began to desert him in the bottom of the fourth (appropriately enough, right after Robin Ventura visited the SNY booth). Justin Turner led off with single, moved to third on a Lucas Duda single underneath Pena's glove, and scored when David Wright reached on a fielder's choice, After another single from Angel Pagan, Bay doubled just fair down the third base line to plate Wright, and Evans hit a harsh groundout that brought in the tying run.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, the Mets were aided by some lucky bounces and lack of hustle from the opposition. With one out, Jose Reyes hit a high, soft fly down the left field line that Soriano lollygagged his way toward, assuming it would land foul. Unfortunately for him, it fell in fair territory and bounced in the stands for a ground rule double. Turner followed by reaching well out of the strike zone to bloop a single into shallow right, bringing home Reyes with the go-ahead run.
Once their lead was gone, what little air remained in the Cubs' balloons disappeared. Thus bailed out by his teammates, Pelfrey responded by setting the Cubs down in order in the fifth and sixth innings. With his pitch count mounting, Pelf walked LaHair to start things off in the top of the seventh, and he was swapped for speedy pinch hitter Tony Campana. After a pop out and roughly 8 million throws to first, pinch hitter Blake DeWitt smashed a ball between first and second that was surely ticketed for the outfield except that it hit Campana as he ran for second.
With the second out recorded in fortunate fashion, Pelfrey backed Starlin Castro into a 1-2 hole but hit him in the shoulder to push the tying run into scoring position. He gave way to the rapidly rising stock of Josh Stinson, and the youngster induced a harmless fly to right from the hilariously named Darwin Barney to end the threat.*
* Hilarious to me, anyway. I hear it and think it sounds Australian for some reason, which also makes me think of the Boot episode of The Simpsons, and the angry Australian dad therein. "FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARY-DOOS?!"
Terry Collins attempted some LaRussian tactics by using Stinson to retire the first batter, bringing in Tim Byrdak to get out the lefty-batting Pena, and calling on Bobby Parnell for the third out. Parnell nearly confounded the strategy by walking the nigh-unwalkable Soriano, but he retired Byrd on a force out to end the inning.
If anyone has earned Flavor of the Month status more than Stinson, it's Manny Acosta, who has emerged from virtual obscurity to be pretty decent at pitching. He was given the save opportunity in the ninth (his second after closing out the Mets' thankfully final trip to Sun Life Stadium), and imitated a Mets closer to perfection. He struck out Tony Campana before walking Geovany Soto on a few close pitches. A Reed Johnson lineout brought Chicago down to its last out, but Castro dunked a single in front of the no-doubles defense, and Barney got revenge on me for making fun of his name by lacking a single up the middle to tie the game at 4.
The Mets' offense had been MIA since Coleman's exit after five, managing just one baserunner in the sixth through eighth innings against relievers Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija. Nick Evans managed a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth against Sean Marshall, and a Josh Thole bunt moved him to second. Pinch hitter Ruben Tejada lined out, prompting the Cubs to intentionally walk Reyes and face Turner instead. The Ginger One confounded the strategy by belting a Marshall offering well over Byrd's head in center field. Evans came home, and the Mets had their first walkoff win in over a month.
The other highlight of the evening was an in-booth appearance by Robin Ventura, and sideline interviews with Joe McEwing and John Olerud, all of them in town for the pregame ceremonies on Sunday. Each former Met was asked about what it was like to play that first game at Shea after 9/11, but they also shared some memories of the memorable 1999/2000 seasons. Personally, I could listen to Olerud and Ventura talk about The Greatest Infield Ever for days.
I wish the Mets would do things like this more often. Every now and then they feature a visit from a former Met, but not with nearly enough regularity. The Mets are improving in the Honoring Their Own History Department, but they can still do better, and small gestures like this are a good place to start.
Big winners: Justin Turner, +56.3%, Jason Bay, +28.0%
Big losers: Manny Acosta, -23.3%, Josh Thole, -10.7%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Justin Turner walkoff single, +39.7%
Teh sux0rest play: Darwin Barney game-tying single, top of the ninth, -35.1%
Total pitcher WPA: -6.7%
Total batter WPA: +56.7%
GWRBI!: Justin Turner walkoff single
Nice job by MetsFan4Decades; their effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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