David Wright Caps Ninth Inning Comeback To Beat Jonathan Papelbon And The Phillies

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This is a game that -- should the Mets make the playoffs -- will be remembered as one of the biggest of the season, a watershed over the long-time reigning National League East champions. It's also a game that -- should the Mets not make the playoffs -- ought to be remembered anyway, memorialized as a Mets Classic on SNY and recalled fondly by Gary, Keith, and Ron for years to come.

David Wright won the game with a bloop RBI single to right field off Jonathan Papelbon. It was really cool. Before that, lots of other cool things, and a few not-so-cool things, happened. Scott Hairston hit a solo home run off Cole Hamels (cool). Wright hit a two-run homer off Hamels (cool). R.A. Dickey gave up five runs in seven innings (not-so-cool, although Dickey did strikeout seven and many of the eleven hits he allowed were not well-struck). Poor defense by Lucas Duda and Ike Davis aided an RBI triple by Jimmy Rollins in the sixth inning (not-so-cool). The bottom of the ninth inning happened (mostly cool).

Davis started that ninth with a smooth double to left-center off a flame-throwing Papelbon. Up came Josh Thole, a left-handed contact specialist with generally good situational hitting ability. The preferred strategy would be to let him swing away, especially with strikeout-prone Kirk Nieuwenhuis waiting on-deck. Maybe Thole drives home the tying run with a base hit or makes a productive out with a ground ball to the right side. Instead, Thole executed a successful sacrifice bunt, moving Davis to third base. Then a completely overmatched Nieuwenhuis struck out on four pitches. Like that old saying goes: "The curious task of sabermetrics is to demonstrate to managers how little they really know about the runs they imagine they can create." Terry Collins hasn't driven us insane with ill-advised bunting but in this case he should have let Thole swing away, considering the following batter.

With two outs and Davis on third base Jordany Valdespin pinch hit for Bobby Parnell, who pitched a dominant, scoreless ninth inning. With the count 3-2, and the Phillies one strike away from a win, Papelbon drilled Valdespin with a fastball, bringing up Ruben Tejada. The 22-year-old shortstop has already displayed maturity beyond his years this season, so his eight-pitch walk to keep the inning alive wasn't exactly shocking. Daniel Murphy followed and lined an infield hit off Papelbon's shoe, driving in pinch-runner Ronny Cedeno with the tying run. The hit put Papelbon on his bum as he chased the ball down near the first base line. The excitement of the game-tying hit was eclipsed just one pitch into Wright's game-ending at-bat, as he deposited the ball into shallow right field to drive in Valdespin. Bedlam ensued around Wright.

This is a game that makes you skip dinner, as I did, because you don't want to miss a thing. Oh, a commercial break is the perfect time to cook something up in the kitchen or grab some pizza around the corner? No, a commercial break is the time to rewind DVR to watch Hairston own Hamels, a dude slip and fall (intentionally?) on the Shea Bridge at Citi Field, or Thole hold on to the ball during a collision at home plate with Mike Fontenot. There was no time for supper tonight.

Maybe the case for this game as a classic is being overstated. It's still just July and the Phillies are rubbish this season. My True SABR defense for 7/5/12-as-classic is the the WPA chart below: up-and-down win probability throughout the game and a code red leverage index in the ninth inning. My human element defense is the audible raucous cheering from the apartment above mine, the apartment next to mine, and the bar across the street which is usually silent thanks to some heavy-duty windows and insulation in the walls of my place. A perfect night to learn that my neighbors are Mets fans.

Here are some further thoughts about the game:

  • How rare is it that R.A. Dickey isn't the biggest story after an R.A. Dickey start?
  • Charlie Manuel brought in left-handed pitcher Antonio Bastardo to face lefty mashers Wright and Hairston in the eighth inning. Bastardo doesn't appear to have a reverse platoon split, so what gives? Is the Phillies bullpen really that bad that there was no better right-handed option? Obviously, Papelbon would be the best choice there but we all know how it goes with using Proven Closers before the ninth inning. Of course Bastardo got both Wright and Hairston out, on a pop-out and strikeout, respectively, despite running the count to 3-0 against them both. Poor process rewarded.
  • Hairston went 1-for-3 with a walk and the aforementioned homer off Hamels. His triple slash line is now .256/.299/.543, making him my favorite Met ever with an OBP below .300.
  • SNY posted this graphic tonight about the Mets' offense:
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    So that's third in the league in runs-per-game and fifteenth in stolen bases. It's almost as if stolen bases are not all that important for scoring runs.
  • Now for some downer thoughts. First up, Duda. Any fly ball to him in right field elicits a preemptive sigh of exasperation. Serious question: is he the worst defensive outfielder in baseball? If he's not, bless the fans of the team which has the worse-than-Duda guy. His defensive tribulations are more forgivable when he's hitting well, like he did in 2011. Unfortunately, he's currently sporting a .750 OPS.
  • Nieuwenhuis strikes out a ton. More often than anyone on the team this season, in fact. We knew this already, based on his minor league career. Still, a 30% K-rate is Adam Dunn-like, and Kirk is no Dunn (few men are). Some more walks or extra-base hits would help as his BABIP trickles downward.
  • Let's end on a positive note. David Wright: .354/.443/.570 with solid defense and a winning smile.

That's a series win over the Phillies which puts the Mets' record at 45-38. Our heroes are in second place in the NL East, 4.5 games back of the Nationals, who also won in dramatic fashion tonight.

The Mets welcome the last-place Cubs to town this weekend for the final series before the All-Star Break. Friday's pitching matchup is Johan Santana vs Travis Wood.

SB Nation Coverage

* Traditional Recap
* Box Score
* Amazin' Avenue Gamethread
* The Good Phight Gamethread

Win Probability Added

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Big winners: David Wright +71.7%, Daniel Murphy +33.2%
Big losers: R.A. Dickey -33.7% (as pitcher), Kirk Nieuwenhuis -33.1%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy RBI single in the ninth inning +38.9%
Teh sux0rest play: Jimmy Rollins RBI triple in the sixth inning -24.4%
Total pitcher WPA: -25.3%
Total batter WPA: +75.3%
GWRBI!: BAMF David Wright

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