The Mets are disappointing-bad. They make promises and tease at fulfilling them before falling short. In contrast, the Cubs have a flair for pointlessness that can only be described as Cubsian. When watching the Cubs, you get the distinct impression that not only does no one expect the team to be any better than they are, but no one ever has and no one ever will. And that includes the players themselves.
In other words, the Cubs are the kind of team you should beat, no matter who you are. Tonight, the Mets seemed to be conducting an experiment to see exactly how much they could do at the plate and still not score, while also seeing how few runs they could score and still beat a hopeless team like Chicago. The answer to the first question: eight hits and 10 uncashed baserunners. The answer to the second question: not enough.
The Mets got things going quickly in the first, as Matt den Dekker led off the game with single, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Curtis Granderson sac fly. That looked like it would be the start of another big night for the Amazins' offense, as they continued to get leadoff runners on base and hit the ball hard against Cubs starter Jake Arietta. The first two batters in the second reached on singles and advanced to scoring position on a Zack Wheeler sac bunt, but den Dekker failed to knock them in as he grounded out.
It was until the third that this game got truly frustrating. That was when the Mets loaded the bases with nobody out on a Daniel Murphy single, a David Wright walk, and a Curtis Granderson single. Granderson's hit to center field could have and probably should have scored a run, but Murphy read the ball badly and had to stop at third. That proved costly, as a Chris Young grounder was turned into a force out at the plate, followed by a Lucas Duda pop up. Wilmer Flores tried to shoot a ball up the middle, but it landed right in Arietta's glove for the third out.
Yet another leadoff hit in the fourth (Travis d'Arnaud this time) was moved to second by yet another Wheeler sac bunt, only to be stranded there by yet more offensive futility. The Mets finally broke the pattern somewhat by getting a one-out hit instead of a leadoff hit when Granderson singled in the fifth. After Grandy stole second and Duda walked, Arietta was removed and replaced by righty Brian Schlitter, but the results remained the same, as Flores struck out on an awful pitch in the dirt. That brought the total men stranded on the bases to nine, a staggering amount for only five innings of play.
The visitors finally failed to reach base in the top of the sixth, with some help from a leaping catch by Starlin Castro on a liner off he bat of den Dekker. In the seventh, Granderson hit a two-out single against new Cubs reliever James Russell, his third hit of the night, but Chris Young struck out looking to erase any thoughts of run scoring and leave the tenth Mets baserunner stranded.
While all this craziness transpired, Zack Wheeler did his best to make his tiny margin for error stand up. He retired the side in order with efficiently in the bottom of the first. and though the second inning required considerably more labor and saw Nate Schierholtz collect the Cubs' first hit, Wheeler put a zero on the board regardless. A two-out walk of Emilio Bonifacio in the third also proved harmless, as Wheeler escaped unscathed, and he retired the Cubbies 1-2-3 in the fourth while recording his fourth K of the night.
Chicago's next flirtation with scoring wouldn't come until the bottom of the fifth, when Schierholtz hit a leadoff single, only the second Cubs hit. He was promptly caught stealing. Wheeler added another strikeout and induced a comebacker to conclude another easy inning, then set down the Cubs 1-2-3 while fanning one more batter in the sixth.
Wheeler began the bottom of the seventh and recorded the first two outs, along with his seventh K, but the sudden elevation of his pitches made it clear he was tiring. A walk of Luis Valbuena, combined with a pitch count that exceeded 100, brought an end to his night and brought in Josh Edgin to face Schierholtz, possessor of the Cubs' two lone hits. Edgin quickly dispatched the fearsome Schierholtz with a three-pitch strikeout.
Those of you who had 8th inning in your When Will The Mets Rue Not Scoring over/under, you may now collect. After Russell and Neil Ramirez set the Mets down in order in the top of eighth, Chris Coghlan was allowed to bat for himself to start the bottom half. This was surprising because lefty Josh Edgin was still on the mound, and Coghlan is supposed to be terrible against southpaws (or more terrible than usual). Cubs skipper Rick Renteria looked like Stephen Hawking when Coghlan hit a solo shot to left-center, his first home run against a lefty pitcher in four years. (The last victim: Oliver Perez, of course.)
Edgin retired the next batter, and Vic Black set down the first man he faced. Bonifacio then singled and moved to second on a delayed steal, but Black fanned Junior Lake to keep the score tied. By the way, you gotta get out to Junior Lake this time of year; the trout practically leap right into the boat!
Hector Rondon took over the pitching duties for the Cubs in the top of the ninth, and a one-out den Dekker single was negated when Murphy bounced into a double play. In the bottom half, the new Mets pitcher, Scott Rice, backed Anthony Rizzo into an 0-2, only to see him bounce a single to center. Rice had a chance to benefit from a GIDP of his own, but Wright couldn't handle a hard grounder off the bat of Starlin Castro and had to settle for one out as the winning run scampered to second.
Wright's error would loom large. Rice struck out Luis Valbuena and got ahead of Schierholtz, 0-2. He hung his next pitch, and Schierholtz ripped it into the right field corner, bringing Rizzo home with the game-winning run.
If nothing else, this game will stand as a Platonic ideal. Whenever someone asks, "How badly do you have to play to hand the Cubs a walkoff win?" you can just point to this game.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Zack Wheeler, 44.3%; Vic Black, 5.9%
Big losers: Scott Rice, -36.6%; Josh Edgin, -21.2%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Curtis Granderson single, top third, 6.8%
Teh sux0rest play: Nate Schierholtz RBI single, bottom ninth, -39.%
Total pitcher WPA: -7.6%
Total batter WPA: -42.4%
GWRBI!: Nate Schierholtz RBI single, bottom ninth