I know most of you hate when the Mets are broadcast on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, but I don’t have a problem with it. I like the occasional change of pace from GKR and enjoy seeing the Amazins’ being broadcast nation-wide. And as for last night specifically, I loved it… It had a postseason feel to it and watching two of the top teams in the National League going toe to toe was thrilling to say the least. On top of that, Alex Rodriguez is quickly becoming my favorite baseball analyst in the industry.
Last night’s 6-5 extra-innings win over the Nationals was some of the best baseball drama I’ve seen in years. Two bitter divisional rivals, who I said were evenly matched back in February, battled it out in a tension-fueled contest that captured all the emotion and excitement that makes baseball the best pastime in the country. Don’t tell either of those dugouts that they were only playing an April game, both teams treated the series finale like it was a death match, with neither team willing to give an inch.
Even after Adrian Gonzalez walloped that momentum-shifting grand slam in the third inning, I never felt the Mets had the game in the bag, not by a long shot. There was a turning point to the game, but A-Gon’s majestic blast was not it.
Enter the Quarterrican
After the Mets took a 4-2 advantage, despite their best efforts both Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman couldn’t hold the lead and the Mets and Nationals were now tied 5-5 entering the ninth. Mickey Callaway turned to Seth Lugo, hoping his starter turned reliever could keep Washington off the scoreboard while the Mets’ offense tried to squeeze out one more run.
Lugo started the inning by pitching around the dangerous Bryce Harper who eventually draws a walk, putting the winning run at first base. An errant pick-off throw to first allowed Harper to scamper into scoring position at second base.
Here’s where things really get interesting. After a long flyball by Matt Adams moves the winning run in the form of Bryce Harper to third base, manager Mickey Callaway orders an intentional walk for both Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth with one out.
It may have been a frigid 39 degrees on the field, but there was a lot of sweat pouring out of both dugouts as well as the players on the field. You could cut the tension with a knife.
Lugo made quick work of young outfielder Michael Taylor who flailed and missed at a high fastball for the second out of the inning. That brought up catcher Pedro Severino, who represented the Nationals’ last chance to win the game in regulation.
All three runners on base took a sizable lead, but the only runner that mattered was Harper at third base who was staring in at the drama unfolding at home plate. Pop… Severino stares at a 89 mph cutter for a called strike one. Pop… Lugo buckles Severino’s knees with his filthy signature curve for a called strike two.
The look of disgust on Bryce Harper’s face told the story as Lugo fired a 95 mph fastball down the middle for a called strike three. Severino’s bat never came off his shoulder. I knew right then that the Mets were going to pull this one out to complete the sweep and so they did.
Lugo would go on to pitch two more scoreless innings but his heroics in the ninth was the springboard to victory the Mets needed. What a job. What a game. What a sweep. Baseball like it oughta be.