If Jay Bruce has to play, he might as well hit, and he did once again last night in a 5-1 win over Philadelphia. The heretofore embattled right fielder went 3-for-4 with three RBI to help guarantee the Mets at least a play-in game to the Wild Card. Bruce continued a week where he’s been equally as hot as he was previously cold during the first eight weeks of his Mets tenure.
Now we are seeing why “getting Jay going” was such a priority. Aside from the fact that it would seem to be a stone-cold lock that the team will exercise his option next year and they need to sell this idea to fans, if he can continue to hit like this, we can all feel a little better about not discovering if Michael Conforto can hit a major league curveball during a postseason chase.
Even those who can’t feel good about that can at least feel good about Ryan Howard wobbling about and looking foolish on a wind-blown pop-up that landed directly on first base and gave the Mets a bonus run in this game.
But I digress.
What is notable is that while Bruce has shown better zone awareness and pitch recognition of late, right now we are seeing the same swing from him as we saw the previous two months—an implausibly easy swing for a power hitter, where when the timing is right, the ball jumps off the bat. When the timing is off, you get a lot of weak dribblers and pop-ups; his fourth inning at-bat last night was full of such weak contact with multiple fouls during a nine-pitch battle. That is, until he finally lined up a 3-2 sinker from Cody Asher and sent it on a clothesline into right field to tie the game at 1-1. His was the third of four straight two-out hits by the middle of the order, which gave the Mets a 2-1 lead and all the runs they would need to support an excellent pitching performance by Robert Gsellman along with the bullpen perfection of Fernando Salas, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia.
Yet Bruce wasn’t done there. With that same easy swing, he led off the seventh by lofting a fly ball to left which just snuck over the wall to give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
He brought home another run in the eighth against a lefty with a shift-aided single bounced right at the vacated shortstop position. Hey, better to be lucky and good.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that Robert Gsellman is good and the Mets are lucky to have him. Gsellman’s stuff looked as nasty as it has to date, especially earlier on in the game. He probably wouldn’t have given up any runs if the Mets had a better defense.
Jose Reyes literally booted a grounder to open the bottom of the second that was somehow scored a hit—ostensibly since it never hit his glove. Then there was a double over Curtis Granderson’s head. This was followed by a shallow fly down the right field line which Bruce chased down, but since he has the agility of a refrigerator, he was unable to stop his momentum soon enough to cut down the runner at the plate—despite making a nice throw.
There was one hit that skipped under the glove of a sliding T.J. Rivera; another that was a bunt single because our third baseman plays far too deep; one hit a liner just out of the reach of our shortstop with the range of, well, a kitchen range. This is indeed the Mets’ defense, which is likely currently worse than the one that failed last year’s unit. So they will likely continue to need dominant performances like the one that G-man put down last night (87 pitches over six innings, seven hits, one walk, seven strikeouts) if they are to get far into the ‘second season’.
Which, by the way, the Mets will be in—in some form or another. A win this afternoon would give them home field advantage for the Wild Card, while a loss would give Mets fans heartburn. Tune in to find out which one we get!
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Jay Bruce, +28.1% WPA; Robert Gsellman, +24.6% WPA
Big losers: None
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jay Bruce’s RBI single to tie the game 1-1 in the fourth, +13.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Ryan Howard’s double in the second to put runners at second and third with no out, +11.0%
Total pitcher WPA: +36.5%
Total batter WPA: +13.5%
GWRBI!: T.J. Rivera