You get to smile after a win like this one, which has allowed your team to reclaim first place, somehow, despite it all. A big, unreserved smile which lets the tension of the last couple days just float away for the time being.
You definitely get to smile like this after a four-hit night with three extra-base hits, two runs scored and two batted in. Especially if you’re John Mayberry, Jr., who had been signed to solidify the Mets’ bench, but until today had been front and center of the least productive group of backups in the National League. When you hold a place on team batting charts where the only names around you are pitchers, guys who have been shuffled up and down from the minors, and a guy who’s been traded after being DFA’d, that has to be a cause for concern. But when your season OPS jumps 38% in one night like it did tonight for Mayberry, you get to relax a bit.
Nobody could relax for much of Thursday's game, not until Mayberry flashed the smile in the pic above after his ninth-inning homer to put the game away. It was a herky-jerky affair that struggled to find a rhythm early on, being marked by dashed hope, fretting and frustration. A lot of disturbing questions metastasized: How many consecutive innings can the Mets get the first two batters on base and not score? How many times is Michael Cuddyer going to swing through that high fastball for strike 3? How many consecutive failed bunt attempts will be popped up to the pitcher? How many homers is Matt Harvey going to let up, now that he’s already given up more so far this year than in all of 2013? How many third baseman are we going to need tonight?
The answer to all of these hair-tugging queries, thankfully, was stemmed at two, as yin turned to yang for the Mets in the second half of the game. The offense, despite failing repeatedly with runners in scoring position and putting up a goose egg against starter Robbie Ray, did work him enough that Ray had to depart after five innings and 110 pitches. Arizona Manager Chip Hale decided to bring in Dominic Leone, newly acquired from Seattle as part of the Mark Trumbo deal, to start the sixth. It turned out to be an inauspicious debut, to say the least.
Four hits and three runs later, the Mets had the lead. Kevin Plawecki, previously a strikeout victim with two on in the second, had the big blow here: He crushed a double high up on the 25-foot wall in center which stands 415 feet from home, bringing in the first two runs of the game for New York.
The young catcher was definitely another candidate for a timely confidence boost, but oddly enough his ultra-competitive battery mate Harvey seemed a little less than sure of himself in the opening stages of the game. His first fastballs registered only 94 on the gun (low-ish for him, anyway), he struggled with command on his breaking stuff, and the D-backs were barreling him up as he was catching a bit too much plate after regularly getting behind in the count. Arizona took a 1-0 lead in the second on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia homer off of an 89 mph change out over the plate, and were threatening with two on and one out in the third. Here Harvey started to take control, locating his fastball high in the zone (now hitting 98 on the gun), showing pinpoint control of his secondaries, and starting a run of five straight strikeouts.
Harvey was momentarily shaken from his perch once again in the sixth, when Paul Goldschmidt took him deep on a fastball that didn’t get inside enough, and a weak grounder back to the box eluded Harvey for an infield hit. This time, he settled down quickly and with finality, starting another run of strikeouts—three in a row—to help get the Mets to the 8th inning with a slim 3-2 lead.
Jeurys Familia (S, 16) came in for an adventurous appearance, which featured five outs, 33 pitches, three wild pitches, and two strikeouts, but the real closer tonight was Mayberry. The Mets finally were afforded some legroom when he sent a frozen rope into the left-field stands to open up the eventual 6-2 margin. It was his second hit of the night against a right-handed pitcher after entering the game with a .105 average against them.
It was hard to smile tonight until that last Mayberry swing. But if we live all of life in a day, this game allowed us to do the same.
Still, we cannot escape our frailty: we await an MRI on Daniel Murphy’s tight quad. Murphy left the game in the third after feeling discomfort, once again throwing the short-term future of the infield into flux. Dilson Herrera started his rehab assignment at St. Lucie last night; there’s rumors on Twitter that Matt Reynolds will be up if Murphy hits the DL; then there’s also Eric Campbell, who hit the ball well twice tonight but had nothing to show for it with an 0-for-3.
The one thing as sure as the next sunrise is that Ruben Tejada will continue to play somewhere until he cools down, as he turned in another stellar performance at the plate—this time as the leadoff hitter. He played the part, seeing 30 pitches in 5 plate appearances, while collecting a single, walk, and sacrifice fly.
On Friday night, John Niese will be looking for a similar kind of about-face, as he takes the hill coming off four straight poor starts. Let us hope he is able to honor his unique pathway and find contentment in the same way shamans Tejada, Mayberry, Plawecki and Harvey did last evening. Ya gotta believe!
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added (What's this?)
Big winners: Robbie Ray, +28.7%; John Mayberry, +25.4%; Matt Harvey, +18.3%
Big losers: Dominic Leone, -40.7%; David Peralta, -18.7%; Lucas Duda, -13.5%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Kevin Plawecki's RBI double in the 6th, +23.8%
Teh sux0rest play: Paul Goldschmidt's solo home run in the 6th, -13.3%
Total pitcher WPA: +29.0%
Total batter WPA: +21.0%
GWRBI!: Ruben Tejada!