Following almost a full week of losses and futility, you’d be forgiven if you had forgotten what the satisfaction of a win felt like. Thankfully for the brains of Mets fans everywhere, a 5-3 win over the Nationals on Saturday night was enough to stave off the horrors of emotional bankruptcy for just a little bit longer.
The start of Saturday’s game was delayed 23 minutes because of the field conditions. Going against the pattern of the 2021 season, these conditions were not wet, dark and disappointing, but rather having the friends and family of Jerry Koosman sitting on the field as his number joined four others in retirement atop Citi Field’s left field stands. If the thought of going a week between winning baseball games wasn’t enough motivation for the Mets, the prospect of disappointing the Koosman’s on this, the day of his number’s retirement, was probably enough to kick the Mets into high gear. Or at the very least that sounds like a fun story, legitimacy be damned.
Imaginary narratives or otherwise, the delayed start of the game didn’t make the stressful first inning for Marcus Stroman and the Mets any less of a chore for those in attendance and the
millions many thousands watching at home. Six pitches into the first batter of the game, Stroman surrendered a double to Lane Thomas who soon saw himself erased and replaced with Alcides Escobar at first base. Juan Soto and Josh Bell sent two singles to the left side of the field, and suddenly the Nationals had the bases loaded with only one out. Fortunately, the Washington Nationals as you know them no longer exist, they were stripped down to the bare essentials and it’s said that the stumbling remains still roam the Earth to this day. So, Stroman was able to retire Yadiel Hernandez and Carter Kieboom on five pitches without issue.
In the Mets’ half of the first, they stood in against Sean Nolin: one of the pieces in the Josh Donaldson trade between the Blue Jays and Athletics in 2014, a guy making his third start in the major leagues since Daniel Murphy was carrying the Mets to the World Series, and, of course, a Local Boy. Over ten years ago, Nolin and Stroman were laying waste to high school lineups across Suffolk County, eight years ago, Nolin and Stroman shared a rotation during the dog days of summer in New Hampshire with the Fisher Cats, and finally, Saturday night, August 28, they faced off in the major league stadium they grew up closest to. With vastly different paths, both men went to work at an identical destination.
Nolin managed to silence the first six Mets he faced, but the second batch of Nationals to face Marcus Stroman in the second inning would not be as forgiving as the first. Luis Garcia, the first major league hitter born in the 21st Century, walked to lead off the inning, and two batters later, he was at second base as the lineup turned over. For the second time in two trips to the plate, Lane Thomas continued his ridiculous hot streak with Washington and plonked a double into the criss-crossed grass, this time giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead. Thomas then took third base on a passed ball and Alcides Escobar, a sentient ghost of the 2015 playoffs, poked a single into left and made it a 2-0 contest. Against most, if not all odds, Juan Soto grounded out rather than adding to the pile-on.
The first step in the Mets’ five inning long comeback came to start the bottom of the third as Kevin Pillar, gunning for that *illar of the game crown, pushed himself into a three-way tie for third place on the team in home runs with his 11th of the year. Later in the inning, Jonathan Villar did his part to chase the *otG summit, but he was caught stealing at second base for the seventh time this season, so that dream ended before it started.
After his bumpy second inning, Marcus Stroman kept the Nationals off the board for the remainder of his six full innings on the mound. Alcides Escobar and Yadiel Hernandez singled, but ultimately, neither man came within 90 feet of scoring.
In the fifth inning, the Mets showed another sign of life...or at least Kevin Pillar did. For the second time in three innings, Kevin Pillar sent a home run to deep left against Sean Nolin, this time tying the game at two apiece, and claiming sole possession of third place on the team in home runs. It looked as if the Mets might have a good thing going as Patrick Mazeika doubled immediately after Pillar came around, but a running, jumping throw from the pesky spirit of World Series past, Alcides Escobar, ended that.
As Stroman departed the game and Trevor May came in to start the seventh inning, the familiar stench of Met that led the team to five straight losses began to grow stronger. To start his night, May allowed a single to the recently-acquired Riley Adams and three batters later, Alcides Escobar singled to put men on the corners for [gulp] Juan Soto. In the ultimate monkey’s paw scenario, Juan Soto didn’t drive in a run. Actually, he struck out against May. Buuuuuuuuuut, that part comes after May spiked a changeup into the dirt, letting Adams come home and turn the tie into a 3-2 Washington lead.
There wasn’t much time to let the waves of sadness flow over your mind and soul as Jeff McNeil singled to start the Mets’ half of the seventh and Kevin Pillar was hit on the elbow guard six pitches deep into his at bat. Patrick Mazeika came up next, but he bunted a ball straight into the air and it was dumb, so I am choosing to ignore him altogether. So, Michael Conforto stepped up in May’s spot. With Mason Thompson just called into the game, especially for Conforto, it was the perfect time for Conforto to hit a three-run homer off of the orange M&M in left-center field, putting the Mets ahead by the 5-3 score that held right to the end of the game.
To finish things off, Seth Lugo faced the minimum in his inning of work during the eighth and Edwin Diaz hit one batter on a weird half-swing, but finished the ninth inning, and the game, with no runs and no hits in the top of the ninth inning. Finally, the Mets had won and the Braves had lost, bringing the Amazin’s within seven and a half games of first place! Cripes, that is bleak to look at.
*illar of the game
Both of the *illars got two hits, but Villar’s were singles and Pillar’s were home runs, so the crown goes to Kevin P.
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Michael Conforto, +46.5% WPA
Big Mets loser: Trevor May, -15.9% WPA
Mets pitchers: 4.5% WPA
Mets hitters: 45.5% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Michael Conforto’s seventh inning go-ahead home run, +46.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Trevor May’s run-scoring wild pitch, -19.2% WPA