The Mets figured to have a good chance to win Tuesday night against the Marlins because R.A. Dickey was on the mound. At Citi Field this year, Dickey entered the night with a 5-1 record and a 1.22 ERA. So, things looked bleak when Dickey allowed a 3-run homer to Gaby Sanchez in the seventh inning to make it 5-4 Florida.
At that point in the game, who were the least likely Mets to come up with key hits to drive a comeback? A reasonable guess would have been Carlos Beltran and Luis Castillo, who entered the contest with averages of .217 and .236, respectively. Both players have been subjects of scorn from fans this year, due to their contracts and lack of production.
Perhaps Beltran was not too much of a surprise, given his pedigree and recent production. Beltran already had a hit, two walks and an RBI in the game. But when he came to the plate with the tying run on second base, Beltran quickly fell behind 0-2 as he looked at first a changeup then a slider for called strikes.
Beltran stayed alive when he fouled off a curve from pitcher Clay Hensley. Hensley throws his changeup (21.2%) and curve (22.4) about the same amount of time overall according to FanGraphs, but the curve is his out pitch. The curve has a Pitch Type Value of 7.8 runs above average, the best mark in baseball among relievers.
According to TexasLeaguers.com, Hensley gets a swing and a miss 23.1 percent of the time when he throws his curve. Earlier in the inning he got to two strikes versus Jose Reyes and put him away on a strikeout with a nasty curve, the first curve he threw in nine pitches.
The key to the at-bat was Beltran fighting off the curve. Not only was it Hensley’s best pitch, it is also the pitch that Beltran has struggled with the most this year. His Pitch Type Values against curves this year is -1.0. Struggling against the curve is nothing new for Beltran, who has not had a positive run value against the pitch since 2007.
Still ahead 0-2, Hensley went back to his slider on the next pitch. In 2008, Hensley’s slider was his main off-speed pitch and he had good success with it, as it had a 3.2 runs above average Pitch Type Value. But in 2010, it was his fourth-best pitch. Hensley throws the slider less than 10 percent of the time and it is his only offering with a negative value.
Beltran turned on the slider and smacked a solid single to right field. Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton threw wildly to the plate and Angel Pagan, who one batter earlier hit a hustle double, slid across home untagged for the tying run.
After tying the game with two outs in the eighth inning, the Mets once again came through with two outs in the ninth. The Marlins had lefty Will Ohman pitch the ninth and he retired the two righties he faced but allowed the two lefties to reach base. That brought up Castillo with runners on first and second.
Castillo entered the game as part of a double switch in the top of the eighth inning and he led off the bottom of the frame with a flyout to left field. That brought his hitless streak to 17 consecutive at-bats.
Since being acquired by the Marlins at the beginning of August, Ohman had been used frequently as a lefty specialist. He faced three batters or fewer six times in nine appearances, including four times when he faced just one batter. Ike Davis and Jeff Francoeur had big-pitch ABs versus Ohman, bringing his pitch count to 15 after just two batters.
That count raised to 22 by the time Castillo came to the plate. After opening the at-bat with a ball, Ohman threw a fastball to Castillo, which the veteran guided into right field for the game-winning hit. While Beltran’s hit was a rocket, Castillo’s shot was much more of the bleeder variety.
The winning hit came on the 24th pitch of the night from Ohman, which was not only his highest total with the Marlins, but the second-most pitches he had thrown all season. Back on June 10th, Ohman threw 31 pitches against the Yankees.
So, the Mets notched only their second win all season when trailing after seven innings. They did it with key hits from two struggling players in Beltran and Castillo. They also had help from Hensley going to his fourth-best pitch and Ohman being asked to pitch his longest outing in 10 weeks.
So, that’s what has to happen for the Mets to pull out a late comeback win.