The Mets got credit for a 2-1 victory in Milwaukee Friday, but it might be more accurate to say they merely 'lost less.' New York was gifted the go-ahead run in the 11th inning when Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar dropped a line drive with the bases loaded that probably should've been an inning-ending double play. A scene of impotent chaos ensued, as two runners ran in the wrong direction—one managed to do this twice—while two fielders made a play to tag out a runner who was already out, and an umpire threw in an inappropriate 'safe' call in the middle of it just to confuse things further.
It was a fitting play to decide a game that prominently featured brain cramps and futility of all stripes. You have to feel sorry for anyone for whom this was the first baseball game they've ever watched, and even sorrier for whoever had to explain it to them. If you weren't turned off by what you saw tonight, there's a good chance you're a Mets fan, or shortly will be.
So let's start with the positives: The Mets won, and kept pace with the Nationals, who also won on Friday. Matt Harvey looked really good once again, hitting as high as 98 MPH on the gun according to Brooks Baseball. He struck out eight in six innings of work, allowing only two hits and two walks along with one run. His command was strong and his secondaries were working well; none of his 20 sliders were put in play, and he got whiffs on six of 10 swings against it. His changeup was even better through its occasional usage: 9 of 11 were strikes with four whiffs. Overall, an elite 68% of his 97 pitches were strikes. His third-straight great showing in a tight game is reason to take heart.
Also good: Third-baseman-of-the-present Wilmer Flores, who went 3-for-5 including a double to move the eventual go-ahead run to third in the eleventh. Flores is now 13-for-26 since taking over for David Wright at the hot corner. Yoenis Cespedes added his third straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-5 with a monstrous homer that tied the game at one in the sixth, and is looking like his slump is behind him.
And if you are prone to nostalgia and/or masochism, you might have also been happy to see ex-Met Kirk Nieuwenhuis have some success; he hit a triple and scored the Brewers' lone run in the fifth, while robbing a home run from Kelly Johnson in the seventh. He also struck out twice with two runners on in the late innings though, and the Mets won, so you can afford that guilty pleasure.
Advisory warning: If you place high value on baseball aesthetics, it may be in your best interests to skip the rest of this recap.
Who are we kidding? You're a Mets fan, so go ahead and read on.
In the third inning, after nearly getting doubled off second on a line drive if not for a dropped catch by Villar, Kelly Johnson then inexplicably meekly goose-stepped back to second on a ground ball toward that bag. Shortstop Villar was then able to field the ball, tag Johnson before he got back to second, and throw to first for a double play.
In the bottom half of the inning, with Aaron Hill on second, a grounder up the middle bounced off Harvey's foot. Asdrubal Cabrera fell down trying to change direction and then tried to knock the ball with his bare hand when his glove would've been better suited for the job; the ball trickled behind him and Hill initially appeared to score on a close play at the plate. On replay, though, it turns out that a terrible slide by Hill saw his lead leg miss home plate, allowing him to be tagged out by a hair.
There was also the moment when both starting pitchers were removed simultaneously for questionable reasons. In the seventh with two out and no one on with Harvey due up, Terry Collins opted to pinch-hit with Michael Conforto despite the fact his starter was still hitting 95 on the gun and struck out two in his last inning. Plus, the team was short in the bullpen due to Logan Verrett's spot start Saturday and Addison Reed's recent overuse. Brewers manager Craig Counsell countered by taking out righty Junior Guerra, who was generally cruising and had only thrown 83 pitches, replacing him with lefty Will Smith. Given the way these offenses went tonight, naturally Conforto hit a routine grounder to first to end the inning.
Both teams' offensive incompetence reached a crescendo in the ninth inning. The Mets loaded the bases with no outs on a walk to Cabrera and singles by Flores and Johnson. Ramon Flores uncorked an errant throw home on Johnson's single, but the slow-footed Cabrera was already moving back towards third and couldn't score even though the ball rolled almost all the way to the on-deck circle without anyone backing up the play. This was made all the more tantalizing by what followed: A pop out by Kevin Plawecki, a strikeout looking by pinch hitter Neil Walker, and a weak ground out by Curtis Granderson to harmlessly end the threat. The Mets were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position on the night.
The Brewers, on the other hand, managed only three hits all game. So the Mets did them a series of favors in the bottom of the ninth when Jim Henderson issued a one-out walk, closely followed by a terrible throw by Plawecki on a steal attempt, which subsequently went through Johnson's legs, allowing the runner to third. Henderson managed to play Houdini, though, getting a strikeout and ground out to get out of the jam.
However, he had thrown 27 pitches and when he was called on to pitch a second inning with only two available relievers left, his velocity and command had vanished. His fastball dropped to 91 and he threw five straight balls to open the tenth, including a leadoff walk to Ramon Flores.
Jerry Blevins was brought in to rescue the situation, leaving the Mets with only Familia behind him in the pen. Flores advanced to second on a successful bunt, and broke for third when a pitch bounced a short distance away from Plawecki. Flores had beaten another poor throw from Plawecki, but overslid the base, and with a helpful nudge from Matt Reynolds (who had just come in at third on a double switch), came off the bag and was called out.
Then came the main attraction in the eleventh: New York loaded the bases again with Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and Johnson, and deja vu started seeping in as Plawecki popped out for the third straight at-bat. That brought up Reynolds, who lined the ball just to the left of Villar. The Brewers' shortstop was already thinking past catching the ball and moving towards second to double off Flores, who had strayed too far from the bag. With his attention thus split, Villar dropped the liner, which trickled behind him. Flores, who was already hustling back to second, kept going till he reached the bag, even when it should have been evident that he was now obligated to go to third. Villar then flipped the ball to second baseman Scooter Gennett, who stepped on second, only for the umpire to gesture 'safe'—apparently with reference to Flores, even though a force out had in fact been recorded on Johnson (the runner at first). Both Flores and Gennett lost their minds at this point, as the lead-footed Flores now took off for third with Gennett holding the ball right next to him, even though Flores now had the right to stay on second. Gennett should have chased down Flores, but instead ran at Johnson (who was already out), and threw to first where Chris Carter applied a meaningless tag-out.
With all that going on, even the plodding Cabrera was able to score easily from third. Now instead of having to decide about stretching Blevins for another inning, Collins could confidently turn to the last man standing in the pen, Jeurys Familia. Two strikeouts and a ground out later, and this game was history—the kind that most would never like to see repeated.
SB Nation GameThreads
* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* Brew Crew Ball GameThread
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Wilmer Flores (+37.2% WPA), Jerry Blevins (+21.2% WPA), Jeurys Familia (+21.2% WPA)
Big losers: Alejandro De Aza (-30.4% WPA), Kevin Plawecki (-27.4% WPA), Neil Walker (-18.1% WPA)
Teh aw3s0mest play: Wilmer Flores' double in the 10th, +22.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Keon Broxton steals second and advances to third on an error in the ninth, -19.3% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +86.8% WPA
Total batter WPA: -36.8% WPA
GWRBI!: Matt Reynolds?