The word agita has two meanings and by the time the Mets beat the Cubs last night, Met fans most likely had experienced both of them.
Agita: noun 1. heartburn; indigestion. 2. agitation; anxiety.
The start of this game had a marquee pitching matchup of Noah Syndergaard and Jake Arrieta. For Syndergaard, he was returning to the site where he made his major league debut over a year ago, and he was pitching against the same man he met on May 12, 2015.
On July 19, 2016 these were two very different pitchers than the ones that met in 2015. Jake Arrieta had a second half for the ages last season when he went 12-1 and posted a minuscule 0.75 ERA which earned him the Cy Young. He continued his outstanding pitching through the first half of 2016, but Noah Syndergaard has been brilliant as well. Since that May start last year, Syndergaard has developed a wicked slider to go along with the blazing fastball he was known for. He has a World Series win under his belt and developed a persona of a fearless pitcher who does not back down or give in.
Despite the pedigree of these two pitchers, both had question marks coming in. Arrieta had been struggling a bit before the All-Star break, and Syndergaard had a dead arm scare in his last outing where his velocity dropped precipitously. So how would these two fare in this ballgame?
It was touch-and-go for Syndergaard in the early innings, but his velocity and command were there, which was an encouraging sign. In the first inning, Syndergaard allowed the first two batters to reach base and move up on a wild pitch with one out. He got out of it when Ben Zobrist flew out to shallow left and Willson Contreras grounded out.
In the second, trouble found Syndergaard again, but so did some luck. Jason Heyward singled to lead off the inning and Addison Russell followed with a double, but Heyward stopped at third. Miguel Montero was up next and hit a ball back to Syndergaard, but Syndergaard threw home to get Heyward. The Cubs would load the bases later that inning with Kris Bryant up, but he flew out to center and the crisis was averted.
The bottom of the third is when Syndergaard’s luck ran out. He gave up a two-out double to Contreras, who moved up to third on another wild pitch. Rene Rivera attempted to throw him out on that play, but his throw sailed into left field, and Contreras scored easily.
That unearned run would be all Syndergaard allowed in his 5.2 innings of work. He gave up seven hits, issued two walks, and struck out eight. Terry Collins turned to Jerry Blevins to get the final out of the sixth since Syndergaard had a high pitch count and a lefty was coming up.
Jake Arrieta also returned to form for this game and was putting up zeros until the sixth. Jose Reyes led off the inning with a triple, and Curtis Granderson hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at one.
Arrieta’s final line for the night was seven innings, five hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts. He also tried to help himself when he attempted to score from second in the fourth inning. In his first game in right field, though, Michael Conforto threw him out at the plate. Arrieta was called safe by the home plate umpire, but Terry Collins challenged the call and it was quickly overturned. That call was huge since it kept the game 1-0 at that point.
With the game tied at one and both starters out of the game, it was up to the bullpens to battle it out. For the Mets, it was Hansel Robles who got the call after Blevins finished the sixth. He had a strong seventh inning so Collins let him go back out for the eighth, which he breezed through, as well.
The Cubs turned to Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, and it was Rondon who had to face Rene Rivera with runners on. The ninth inning started when James Loney led off with a single. Neil Walker grounded out into a 3-6 fielder’s choice but beat out the throw to first base to avoid making it a double play. Like his counterpart at the plate earlier in the game, the first base umpire made the wrong call, but the Mets challenged successfully again, as Walker was obviously safe.
Asdrubal Cabrera then singled, and after Michael Conforto struck out, Rivera walked to the plate. He got back the run he gave away with his error when he picked up his third hit of the night to score Walker.
So with a 2-1 lead the Mets turned to Jeurys Familia to nail down the save. For those with weak stomachs, this was an inning in which it was a good idea to have some Pepto nearby. Familia got ahead 0-2 to leadoff hitter Addison Russell but eventually lost him to a walk. He lost the strike zone after that and walked Montero on four pitches.
Javier Baez was up next and called upon to bunt. He hit a hard bunt down the third base line, and Reyes fielded it despite it looking destined for foul territory. His throw to first was not in time, so the bases were now loaded with nobody out. Matt Szczur pinch hit and grounded out to James Loney, and with a drawn-in infield, Loney was able to throw home and get the out at the plate.
With the bases still loaded, one out, and Kris Bryant up, the Mets got Bryant again. Back in the second inning, he had flown out to center with the bases loaded, and this time Familia was able to induce the double play he sorely needed, from Reyes to Walker to Loney, to end the game.
Joy: noun 1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation
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Bleed Cubbie Blue
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Rene Rivera +40.3%, Jeurys Familia +19.0%, Hansel Robles +18.8%, Noah Syndergaard +13.0%
Big losers: Michael Conforto -14.3%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Kris Bryant double play in the ninth
Teh sux0rest play: Javier Baez infield single in the ninth
Total pitcher WPA: 56.1%
Total batter WPA: -6.1%
GWRBI!: Rene Rivera