By earning a walkoff win against the Mets last night, the Reds punched their ticket to the offseason. And yet, there's a still much for them to play for in the regular season's final days. The entered the day neck and neck with the Pirates in the wild card standings, and only 2 games in back of the NL Central-leading Cardinals. They did not play like a team concerned about their place in the standings on Tuesday, however. Neither did the Mets, to be honest, but one anomalous outburst would give them a victory regardless.
In the top of the first, the Mets collected a leadoff hit by Eric Young and a one-out single by David Wright to put runners on the corners. They narrowly escaped this run-scoring opportunity when Lucas Duda struck out swinging (or at least he did so in the emphatic opinion of third base ump Tony Randazzo) and Juan Lagares ground out.
They came close to being denied in the second as well, but the Mets' bad luck lost out to some sloppy play and surprisingly poor pitching from Mike Leake, who'd come into this game as hot as any hurler in baseball. Mike Baxter led things off with a double (aided by a misplay by right fielder Jay Bruce), and one out later, Wilfredo Tovar singled him home ahead of a terrible relay throw, bad enough to allow Tovar to wind up at second. But when Jon Niese singled to right, Tovar made the unwise decision to head home and was thrown out by a sizeable margin. Then, Eric Young hit the ball to deep left-center, only to see it bounce over the fence, turning an RBI double into a mere ground rule double.
This gave Leake a chance to wriggle off the hook, but Daniel Murphy battled him in a tough 10-pitch at bat before turning on a cutter and blasting it into the right field bleachers for a three-run homer. After David Wright singled past second base, Leake's night came to a premature end, and Zach Duke was finally able to record the final out.
After the second inning, the Mets' bats would stay politely quiet for the majority of the evening. First, Duke shut the door on the Mets for two innings and change. The lefty allowed a pair of singles in the top of the third, but the Mets could push neither runner across. In the fourth, a one-out single by Murphy was erased when Wright bounced into a double play. Logan Ondrusek took his spot in the fifth and sent down the Mets in order in that inning and the next. J.J. Hoover received the nod for the Reds in the seventh and did the same.
As for the Reds' offense, they followed a similar pattern of threat and breakthrough, minus the breakthrough. In the bottom of the first, Niese's first two pitches were turned into singles by Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips, respectively. But after Joey Votto was called out on strikes, Ryan Ludwick singled to center, inspiring Choo to try and score. With Lagares patrolling center, that would be a mistake, as Choo found out when he was nailed at the plate with room to spare. Another K looking, this one of Bruce, ended the frame.
In the second, Niese found some trouble when Todd Frazier hit a leadoff double down the left field line. Frazier would come around to score after a pair of groundouts, and Niese would allow a single to Duke (supposedly an awful hitter, according to the SNY crew), but nothing else. His third inning was much better, as Niese struck out the impressive trio of Phillips, Votto, and Bruce. In the fourth, Niese ceded a double to Zack Cozart but stranded the runner.
Niese started off the fifth poorly by offering up a pitch that Choo cracked toward center. Lagares compounded this error by overrunning the ball, turning what probably would have been a mere single into a leadoff triple. The situation soured further once the next batter, Phillips, receiving a free pass, but Niese limited the damage by getting Votto to ground into a double play. Though Choo scored on the GIDP, the scoring ended there, and the Reds would not seriously threaten again. Niese ended his evening (and possibly his season) in fine form as he pieced together 1-2-3 sixth and seventh innings.
When Sean Marshall hit Lucas Duda with his first pitch of the top of the eighth, it gave the Mets their first baserunner since the fourth inning. But after a Lagares hit into a fielder's choice, he restored the game's delicate homeostasis by getting caught stealing second. New pitcher Alfredo Simon recorded the final out with little trouble, then retired the side in order in the ninth.
Scott Atchison was the first man out of the Mets' bullpen in the bottom of the eighth. It's hard to say whether he was amazingly effective or if the Reds' batters were amazingly anxious, but Ol' Man Atchison retired Cincy in order on only 6 pitches.
Vic Black, the hard-throwing PTBNL in the Marlon Byrd/John Buck deal with Pittsburgh, has expressed a desire to be the closer. Would-be closers don't tend to be shrinking violets, and Black is no exception.
Tonight, with Latroy Hawkins seemingly unavailable, Black got the chance he'd been looking for. He fanned the first batter he faced, Jay Bruce, who did not feel like running to first when a swinging strike three bounced in the dirt. Black did the same to the next batter, Todd Frazier, but he was not so accommodating when the third strike got away from d'Arnaud. Frazier beat out an awful throw to first, which meant the tying run would come to bat. But two pitches later, Black induced a tidy GIDP from Zack Cozart, sealing a 4-2 Mets victory and giving Black his first major league save.
SB Nation Coverage
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jon Niese, 22.6%, Daniel Murphy, 19.1%
Big losers: Jon Niese (batting), -8.1%, Lucas Duda, -7.0%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Daniel Murphy 3-run homer, second inning, 22.1%
Teh sux0rest play: Brandon Phillips walk, bottom fifth, -6.0%
Total pitcher WPA: 39.0%
Total batter WPA: 11.0%
GWRBI!: Daniel Murphy 3-run homer, second inning