When the Mets and Marlins stepped onto the field at the beginning of the evening at Marlins Park, playing a baseball game didn’t seem to make any sense. Jose Fernandez, the outstanding, vibrant young pitcher who was supposed to start the game had died tragically only one day earlier. Everyone on the field—especially many Marlins players—was visibly shaken as Fernandez’s life was commemorated in a pre-game ceremony, part of which included the Mets and Marlins exchanging hugs all over the infield. But having cancelled their game on Sunday, the Marlins and their schedule resumed play on Monday night, and somehow, the Marlins’ players kept it together.
Dee Gordon opened the bottom of the first by taking one pitch as a right-handed hitter imitating Fernandez’s batting stance before swapping out his helmet and returning to his normal left-handed batter’s box. Then he opened the scoring in the game with a solo home run into the second deck in right field, and he was in tears as he rounded the bases and crossed home plate. Gordon had appeared to be one of the most upset players on the field before the game, and only seemed appropriate that he hit that home run.
As the game moved along, things seemed so ever so slightly return to normal, at least in terms of baseball. Unfortunately for the Mets, the bad Bartolo Colon—who has rarely shown up this season—was on the mound. The Gordon home run was the only run he gave up in the first inning, but he had given up hard contact then. He gave up plenty more of it in the second, as he surrendered four runs without allowing a home run. Then he gave up two more in the third and was finally pulled after throwing just two-and-one-third innings. He gave up seven runs on eight hits over that span and neither struck out nor walked anybody.
When Colon was finally pulled, which probably should have happened earlier given the frequent hard contact he was allowing, Gabriel Ynoa took over. He and Rafael Montero, Erik Goeddel, Josh Edgin, and Jim Henderson pitched the rest of the game. In total, they gave up six hits but didn’t allow the Marlins to score again.
The Mets hadn’t done much at the plate against Adam Conley, who was making his first start in several weeks but was on a low pitch count and threw only three innings because of it. They got on the board with a two-run double from Asdrubal Cabrera in the fifth. And in the sixth, they loaded the bases with just one out, but Lucas Duda had a rough at-bat and struck out before Kelly Johnson pinch hit and grounded out to short to end the inning.
Duda plated the Mets’ third run of the game with an opposite-field single in the eighth, but with runners on first and second, Alejandro De Aza struck out, ending another Mets threat. That was the last time it looked like the Mets might be able to come back.
It might have felt strange at first, maybe even guilty, to root for the Mets to beat a team that’s still working through a terrible situation. But as the innings passed and it felt more and more like a baseball game, the Mets’ lack of success was disappointing. They got some help, as the Cardinals were blown out by the Reds, which cut the Mets’ magic number to finish ahead of the Cardinals to five. That’s not the only team they’re contending with for a Wild Card spot, but it’s one of the two still has a realistic shot. The dormant Giants picked up a half-game on the Mets because of the loss.
Perhaps the game, if anything, was a reminder that there are two types of losses: sports losses and real, human losses. Sports are entertainment, after all, and Jose Fernandez seemed to fully understand that with the way he played baseball. The Mets’ loss mattered a lot in the standings, but the game itself was the first of many reminders that Jose Fernandez is gone. That kind of loss can’t be bounced back from tomorrow night.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: none
Big losers: Bartolo Colon, -34.9% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Travis d’Arnaud walks to load the bases in the sixth, +3.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Dee Gordon hits a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first, -10.4% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -33.4% WPA
Total batter WPA: -16.6% WPA
GWRBI!: Adam Conley