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Mets vs. Braves Recap, Game 1: Cespedes is bae

Robert Gsellman pitched a heckuva game, and Yoenis Cespedes punctuated his return from the DL with a grand slam.

MLB: Game 1-New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Suffice to say that we Mets fans aren’t known for our sunny dispositions and optimistic outlooks where our team is concerned. Such pervasive negativity seemed misguided at the end of 2015 and 2016, but we could be forgiven, perhaps, for our fatalistic view of things so far this year.

WIN, 6-1

The Mets have been decimated by injuries—and, in some cases, under-performing players—this year, such that there is no risk of hyperbole in saying their season already hangs in the balance, if the cause isn’t lost already. Shit’s been grim, is what I’m trying to say.

So while it was fun and encouraging to watch Robert Gsellman carve his way through the Braves lineup, you couldn’t help but rue Asdrubal Cabrera’s two errors in the first inning—the ones that came on consecutive routine ground balls and that needlessly drove Gsellman’s pitch count up an extra 15 or so pitches. You wondered, between that another Jose Reyes o-fer (and error!), how on earth the Mets’ brass could possibly continue to roll with these guys while their shortstop of the future, one of the top prospects in baseball, is just a phone call away.

You also grumbled the sterling major league debut of Sean Newcomb, the Braves’ 23-year-old left-handed starting pitcher. Based on what he showed today, it seems like Newcomb could very well give the Mets fits for years to come, dammit. Tip your cap, sure, but shake your head, too, at the Mets’ seeming-perennial inability to hit baseballs thrown by rookie pitchers.

Gsellman was pulled with two outs in the seventh inning, having thrown 106 pitches and yielding no earned runs. It was a job very well done, but it was hard to stay happy about it for very long, even after Jerry Blevins came in and struck out Ender Enciarte to end the inning; it was only 1-0 Mets, and there was just too much game left, too much room for Terry to make weird in-game moves that hurt the team’s chances, and too much variability with the Mets’ horribly over-worked bullpen.

Wilmer Flores’s eighth-inning sacrifice fly to plate Michael Conforto and put the Mets up 2-0 was nice, but it, too was tainted by the ominous sight of Yoenis Cespedes refraining from taking what would normally be a no-brainer opportunity to tag up from second base. It was a reminder of the Mets’ general ill health, and a drag on the otherwise welcome sight of Cespedes on the diamond.

Fernando Salas came in to pitch in the bottom of the eighth and promptly served up a home run to the reigning nemesis of SABR nerds, Brandon Phillips. As the former Cincinnati Red circled the bases, you thought, “the Mets are going to lose this game,” and it was a perfectly rational thought.

A beat later, there was a past-a-diving-Reynolds base hit up the middle, and doom was at the doorstep. Terry lifted Salas in favor of Addison Reed, who was going to be tasked with the vaunted Five-Out Save. Reed was one of the best relievers in baseball last year, but that was last year, and this year, today, it felt like Terry was setting the table for the baseball equivalent of a well-done steak-and-ketchup dinner with a side of canned beans and skunky Natty Ice or whatever other shit beer he pulled out of the stash Sandy Alderson stocked for him.

Reed gets out of the inning; it’s still 2-1, Mets; you pull the tab on the can and take a swig.

The Mets load the bases in the top of the ninth and Yoenis Cespedes strides up to the plate, and a forgotten little switch clicks its little click somewhere in the recesses of your mind. You lean forward as Jackson goes into his motion and offers up a low fastball. Cespedes unleashes his whip of a swing and sends the ball sailing over the wall. You barely hear Gary Cohen’s voice scream “OUTta here!!!” because you yourself have bellowed something; you have pumped your fist, you have smiled, and you have riled up your dogs, your spouse, and your baby son.

Yoenis Cespedes came back today and reminded us how important he’s been to this team since he arrived nearly two years ago. More to the point, though, he reminded us, if briefly, how much fun it is when the Mets kick some ass and win baseball games.

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Win Probability Added

What’s WPA?

Big winners: Robert Gsellman, +44.5% WPA, Addison Reed, +24.9% WPA, Sean Newcomb, +19.1% WPA
Big losers: Luke Jackson, -24.4% WPA, Fernando Salas, -14.8% WPA, Rio Ruiz, -14.7% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Yoenis Cespedes’s grand slam in the top of the 9th
Teh sux0rest play: Brandon Phillips’ solo home run in the bottom of the 8th
Total pitcher WPA: +50.4% WPA
Total batter WPA: -0.4% WPA
GWRBI!: Wilmer Flores