For a team that has appeared lethargic during a seemingly team-wide slump that has lasted almost two months, these Mets showed a lot of fight in last night's 4-3 comeback win. Steven Matz battled the best lineup in the game with the knowledge that pain from bone spurs could shoot through his arm on any given pitch. The hitters showed awareness of situational hitting during the turnaround excitement of the seventh inning, working crucial at-bats after falling behind in the count early. The bullpen stood up to trouble, including a bases-loaded jam in the ninth. And the Mets hit the ball hard.
No one hit the ball harder than Yoenis Cespedes. While each of five Mets' warning-track fly balls and a number of hard-hit liners found their way into Cubs' gloves, Yo's sixth-inning moon-scraper could only be caught if you had a ticket in the third deck of left field. His 19th home run this season was a memorable one. Even the most hardened Mets fan would have to raise an eyebrow upon seeing it, since it is the only ball in Citi Field history to reach such heights during a game. It seemed a cathartic moment for both team and crowd, while getting the Mets on the board after falling behind 3-0.
The energy carried over to the bottom of the seventh with the game-changing rally. With one out, Travis d'Arnaud, who went 2-for-2 with a walk, ripped a single to left. This brought up the much-maligned Alejandro De Aza as a pinch-hitter, who fell quickly behind to a 1-2 count. But with a good eye and multiple foul balls from measured cuts, De Aza persevered through an eight-pitch at-bat against the splitter-throwing veteran Joel Peralta, resulting in a walk.
This brought up rookie Brandon Nimmo, who looked shaky going back on balls in right field during this game and had struck out looking to end Mets ninth-inning rallies twice in the last two series. But Nimmo carries a preternatural calm about him for a rookie, and even after waving helplessly at two splitters, he stayed in the moment, fouling off three straight 1-2 pitches before working the count full. He lined the ninth pitch he saw back through the box and into center field, scoring d'Arnaud. Meanwhile, De Aza made a good read on the basepaths, seeing that center fielder Albert Almora Jr. was moving to his right to field the ball, forcing him to throw across his body as De Aza sprinted to third with a headfirst slide that beat a close play. Nimmo took second base behind him with a smile as big as the Wyoming sky.
So Neil Walker came to the plate with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, but got down two strikes after two pitches, and Mets fans have stopped counting how many strikeouts we've seen in this situation so far this year. Yet Walker cut down his swing and sent a high chopper to second with the infield drawn in. De Aza again got a good jump on his break toward home to tie the game, while Cubs second baseman Javier Baez decided to try to cut down Nimmo at third with the play in front of him. The problem was, Kris Bryant was still trying to retreat to the bag as the throw came, and with no clear target, Baez sent it wide of Bryant's glove, allowing an again-joyous Nimmo to come home and give the Mets a sudden 4-3 advantage.
Of course, offense is only half the game, and the pitching side had plenty of pathos as well. There was the feeling coming in that every game pitched for Matz for the next few weeks could be like a Game 7, as the sizable bone spur in his elbow could force him into season-ending surgery at any time. But if he felt pain, he didn't let on. Despite facing a strike zone where nothing above the belt got called in addition to having to deal with the Cubs' formidable lineup, Matz availed himself well. He only made two mistakes—a low fastball that caught too much plate to Bryant and a changeup that did likewise for Baez in the fifth—and both were crushed for homers. Yet those accounted for the only runs he would allow. There was good crackle on his fastball, topping out at 97 according to Brooks Baseball, and good break on his curve, while he confidently used his change a season-high 23 times. He even threw his slider—the pitch that he recently said "hurts when I throw it"—twice in a row during his last inning of work. So all that bodes quite well.
Then there was the bullpen, which held the vaunted North-Siders of Chicago scoreless over three-and two-thirds innings. Erik Goeddel posted a clean sheet while securing five outs, and Jerry Blevins got Jason Heyward on a broken-bat comebacker with the tying run on in the eighth.
The ninth inning, however, kind of made you forget all that came before it. Jeurys Familia walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a ringing double to Ben Zobrist, which brought about pangs of longing for a second baseman lost this past offseason for the second time in as many days. But Familia rose to the occasion, as he often does, striking out Bryant and, after an intentional walk to Anthony Rizzo which featured a near-wild pitch, giving the same treatment to Willson Contreras. Familia then got Baez to pop out to complete the rousing victory.
SB Nation GameThreads
* Amazin' Avenue GameThread
* Bleed Cubbie Blue GameThread
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Neil Walker (+30.5% WPA), Brandon Nimmo (+16.2% WPA), Travis d'Arnaud (+12.8% WPA)
Big losers: Steven Matz (-29.9% WPA), Wilmer Flores (-11.3% WPA)
Teh aw3s0mest play: Neil Walker's seventh-inning grounder which tied the game / Javier Baez's error which gave the Mets the lead, +29.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Ben Zobrist's double in the ninth to put two runners in scoring position with no out, -33.4% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +16.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: +33.4% WPA