Tonight marked Matt Cain's first start at Citi Field since the fateful day back in 2009 when he drilled David Wright with a pitch to the dome. That put Wright out of commission for quite a while, and when he returned he was forced to wear a "Great Gazoo" helmet that was universally mocked by non-Mets fans. ("Ha! He's trying to protect his brain!") It is a testament to how much has happened to the Mets since then that I barely remembered this ugly incident until Gary Cohen resurrected it during the broadcast. By now, Wright's beaning might not crack the top 50 horrible things that have befallen the Mets since 2009.
Cain betrayed no nervousness about pitching at the scene of the crime, perhaps because there were so many Giants fans on hand (and so few Mets fans), he might as well have been pitching at AT&T Park. The last time the Mets faced him there, they knocked him out in the first inning. Tonight's Mets were not so rude, exiting in order on 8 pitches in the bottom of the first. In the second, Juan Lagares logged the Mets' first hit, a flare to right, but Cain was otherwise harassed not by the Mets' meager bats.
It's important to note here that, some struggles this season aside, Cain is pretty good at pitching. So good, in fact, that there was something patently unfair about him facing this Mets lineup, which is so weak at this portion of the season I think it may have been assembled from patients at a 19th century sanitarium.
Aaron Harang pitched a scoreless top of the first while striking out two, then fanned another pair while putting up a zero in the second. But the longball that plagued Harang's first start as a Met reared its ugly head in the third. With one out, after old friend Angel Pagan singled up the middle, Harang hung one to Gregor Blanco, who belted it into the Modell's Fun Zone or whatever the hell they call it in right field for a two-run homer. Harang then allowed a single to Brandon Belt, followed by walks of Buster Posey and Hunter Pence to load the bases. Pablo Sandoval was charitable enough to ground into a double play to prevent a truly disastrous inning, but to this Mets team even a two-run deficit can be a disaster.
Finding themselves behind, the Mets fought back the only way they know how: With a relentless barrage of singles. In the bottom of the third, Harang tried to help his own cause with a one-out hit, and after he was erased on a force out, Josh Satin dropped his own single into shallow center. Daniel Murphy tried to join the party by scorching a ball up the middle, off Cain's glove, but Brandon Crawford reached it time to throw him out and conclude the 2013 Mets' version of a rally.
Harang found trouble again in the top of the fourth, though most of it was not of his doing. It began when Satin botched a grounder, allowing Crawford to reach base. One out later, Cain singled when he pulled the classic "I'm totally gonna bunt PSYCHE" butcher boy play. Harang recorded the second out and appeared to have the third when Blanco hit an easy fly to right field, but Andrew Brown whiffed on the play. The ball glanced off the webbing of his glove, allowing Crawford to score. Harang struck out Posey to end the scoring there, his sixth K of the game, but the Giants were now up by the titanic score of 3-0.
This was a bad spot for the Mets to be in, but they saw no reason to bother Matt Cain about it, going down in order in bottom of the fourth and striking out twice. The Giants then stretched their lead in the top of the fifth when Posey was hit by a pitch to start the frame, stole second as Sandoval struck out for the second out, and scored on a Crawford single. Crawford then found himself hung up between first and second, caught in rundown that lasted 2 full geological epochs, give or take.
Harang exited after five middling innings with a line very similar to that of his first start: 8 strikeouts, 4 runs (3 earned). Carlos Torres was scheduled to start this weekend in Philadelphia, but that has never stopped him from making relief appearances before. He set down the Giants in order in the top of the sixth, then struck out the side in the seventh after a leadoff walk. David Aardsma took the hill in the eighth and recorded his own perfect inning, and Vic Black did the same in the ninth, despite Brown and Ruben Tejada almost killing themselves in pursuit of a foul ball.
Tejada had the play the whole way, but Brown ran in to cover for some reason. Tejada caught the ball and Brown had to slide to avoid hitting Tejada, but the shortstop clipped Brown as he tried to leap over him. Tejada looked a little wobbly after he got up but otherwise seemed fine. As it turned out, he suffered a broken fibula and will miss the rest of the season because of course he will.
At the time, it seemed these bullpen efforts would be all for nought. The Mets' bats continued to flail helplessly against Cain in the fifth, save for Juan Centeno's first major league hit (a single, of course). Cain racked up another 1-2-3 frame in the sixth, and allowed nought but a two-out Ruben Tejada single in the seventh.
Matt Den Dekker hit a pinch hit (wait for it) single to start the bottom of the eighth, then tried to steal second for reasons known only to eternity. Luckily for him, Posey's throw was late and wild, allowing Den Dekker to advance to third when the ball skipped into the outfield. He then came home to score on a long sac fly by Satin, which ended Cain's evening. Javier Lopez took his spot and induced an easy grounder from Murphy for the last out of the inning.
The Giants had hoped to stay away from Sergio Romo, so Santiago Casilla was given the save duties in the ninth. He proved unsuited for the task, as he walked leadoff man Brown, then, after striking out Lucas Duda, walked Lagares. These were the first free passes the Mets had earned on the evening.
Casilla's wildness more or less forced Bruce Bochy to turn to Romo anyway, but that just poured gasoline on the fire. Pinch hitter Zach Lutz doubled down the third base line to score a run (the Mets first and only extra base hit of the evening), then Centano singled to bring home another and put the tying run on third with only one out. Romo complicated things further by walking Den Dekker to load the bases and put the winning run in scoring position.
With the pitcher's spot up next, the Mets were forced to pinch hit with Omar Quintanilla, presumably because all the other sanitarium patients had dropped dead of consumption. With the tying run 90 feet away and only one out, Q could only manage a weak fly to right, too shallow to allow Lutz to tag up and score.
That left matters up to Satin (HAIL!), and he responded with a sharp single between third and short. The tying and winning runs scampered home, and somehow the Mets had a walkoff 5-4 win, in a game where they seemed to be on another planet from their opposition for almost eight innings. It will probably not surprise you to find out that this marked the first time all season the Mets overcame a four-run deficit. They will attempt to take a series at home (dare we dream?) in tomorrow's matinée rubber game.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Josh Satin, 72.4%, Zach Lutz, 17.9%
Big losers: Omar Quintanilla, -26.3%, Aaron Haran, -20.7%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Josh Satin walkoff single, bottom 9th, 4.1%
Teh sux0rest play: Omar Quintanilla flyout, bottom 9th, -26.3%
Total pitcher WPA: -17.5%
Total batter WPA: 67.5%
GWRBI!: Josh Satin walkoff two-run single, bottom 9th