From an outsider’s perspective, Mets baseball hasn’t been particularly compelling this year to date. That is, according to the behavior of the resident baseball outsider in my home, my wife. Lights-out pitching doesn’t light up her radar gun, evidently. Even if she does appreciate the idea, it is heavily discounted by the fact she so often hears me audibly groan under the weight of Mets hitters watching and / or not appropriately striking the best pitch they will see in their at-bat. She doesn’t sense any of the personality or flair that has characterized the best Mets teams in the past, and accordingly has not watched a single inning with me this year. (I try to explain that their personality is simply trapped under the same glass that has suffocated their offense. It doesn’t seem to help though.) This is a girl who watched plenty of 2003 Mets with me and enjoyed it.
But her ears did perk up today when she heard Gary Cohen’s description of Curtis Granderson legging out his double to open the tenth inning today. She hung around for Juan Uribe’s at-bat, and seemed interested in him and his obvious confidence. Heck, I felt good with him up there, even with an 0-2 count against fireballer Kenley Jansen, whereas most Mets at-bats have been already written off for tax purposes at that point.
All this personal minutiae is to say that with a couple of moves and a couple of wins, the feel of this team is different, and in a good way. We are a fact- and stat-based site, but there is no stat that can quantify Uribe waddling around the field after his walk-off wall-banger, his grin bursting with chaw, the ease of his gait reminding us what bespoke clutchness looks like. He did not miss his pitch. He was a vision of sorts. (He definitely was in the clubhouse after the game.)
After three games in the majors, Michael Conforto has been a bit of a vision too: He is already vying for the best approach at the plate on the team. The game at the top level is definitely not too fast for him; the quickness of his reactions speak of effortlessness, and again carries with it a presence that has been absent from Mets position players for most of the season.
Did I mention Jacob deGrom may be using a new conditioner, perhaps leave-in? His mane looks better than ever. (My wife hasn’t seen that yet. And maybe I shouldn’t let her.)
The Mets may be on to something here.
For now, this is a win to relish. Especially when one of the candidates for team MVP, Jeurys Familia, dropped the ball when it was handed to him by the other candidate, deGrom. In this case, blowing a 2-0 lead in the ninth merely set the stage for Uribe’s heroics and Jennry Mejia’s first win of the year. Mejia hasn’t been scored on in seven appearances since returning from his suspension.
Uribe has not started either of his first two games with the club, but that may change shortly. He would definitely qualify as the team’s best defensive third baseman, although he had a bit of mixed bag today in the field when he came out for the ninth after pinch-hitting. He fielded a Howie Kendrick dribbler on-the-run and barehanded to get the first out. But he was unable to knock down a tough chance when Yasmani Grandal laced the game-tying hit past him and down the third base line. Many times this year, that kind of ‘game of inches’ stuff has been a turning point against the Mets.
No matter this time. I defy anyone to not be pumped up at the sight of a veteran stretching a single into a double, up to including my wife. Granderson started the winning rally by smoking the eighth pitch of his at-bat to right-center and running hard all the way, sensing Andre Either taking it easy on the play. Granderson was right to do so, by a matter of inches.
I also defy you to find a worse bunting team at any level than these Mets. The Mets were 1-for-4 on bunt attempts today. 3-for-4 should be moderately chastening at the pro level. Can we really not get these guys out there for extra bunting practice? Evidently, no. It was Ruben Tejada who this time was unable to move the runner over.
The choice to then pitch around Daniel Murphy in order to get to the free-swinging Uribe makes sense on paper, but perhaps not in the annals of clutchness. Two things are for certain with Juan Uribe up there: he’s got one of the better tobacco-packed snarls going, and he’s going to get his rips in. He’s also not going to hesitate to flip the bat after connecting like he did on the game-winner—more style points to add to his strut afterwards. Really, the guy should have been wearing a wide-brimed boa, an eyepatch, and a sword. He already was kind of walking like he had a peg leg.
Part of what makes Uribe compelling is that there is a ‘messiness’ about him and his game, and he generally looks pretty good coming out the other side. Conforto likewise has looked composed during the less-than-ideal moments of his major-league tenure so far. He’s already collided with teammates twice on fly balls (today it was Kirk Nieuwenhuis he ran into, but the center fielder held onto the ball), but looks like he was communicating well with his teammates afterwards and took the requisite flak from the dugout in stride. How guys handle the ‘messiness’ that is thrown at them in a game as fraught with failure and singular moments as baseball says a lot—and this is not a team that has done messy well this year (apart from still being in playoff contention and everything).
Conforto showed he was ready for any kind of moment when he faced Greinke with the bases loaded in the sixth. With a hard high fastball bearing in on him, Conforto straightened to start and get out of the way, but left his shoulder to linger and make sure the ball got a piece of it. (Maybe he should show this technique to Mets would-be bunters.) That situational awareness earned him his third career RBI. I don’t want to make too much of an 0-for-2, 1 walk, 1 HBP, 1 RBI performance, but I will not be surprised if Kevin Long includes him in his will as a long lost son, with all apologies to Kevin Long’s actual offspring.
Their first run of the day also had a bit of spit for polish on it, with Nieuwenhuis getting hit by a pitch, taking third base on an outfield bobble of a hit, and just beating the throw home on an infield grounder. It was a beautiful, chaotic, exciting tour around the bases; the kind we saw a lot of during that 11-game win streak back in April.
So if there is something resembling a takeaway from all this, it would be to ‘embrace the messiness’. Those who know how to make life’s messiness work for them seem to not let the moment get too big. A little messiness can be a lot of fun, at the very least, if artfully handled.
As Mets fans, we are well acquainted with the alternative. So why not take a ride on the Uribe freeway?
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jacob deGrom, +46.5% WPA (pitching + hitting); Juan Uribe, +30.7% WPA; Curtis Granderson, +15.9% WPA
Big losers: Jeurys Familia, -28.2% WPA; Ruben Tejada, -20.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Uribe walk-off hit in the 10th, +31.0% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Yasmani Grandal's game-tying RBI single in the 9th, -29.7% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +23.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: +26.4% WPA
GWRBI!: Juan Uribe!