“The Mets have shown tremendous grit tonight.”
– SNY’s Gary Cohen, 4/27/11, 9th inning of an eventual 6-3 win over the Nationals.
Did I hear that right? The Mets described as “gritty?” I haven’t heard that since 2005, the early days of Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Cliff Floyd & Mike Cameron. Since Doug Mantkiewicz was manning first base. David Wright’s first full season & Jose Reyes’ second.
It was a refreshing sound, to say nothing of sight. We had seen glimpses of it earlier this season, but it was dispiritingly absent during the first home series where you’d think excitement, hustle, fan support/rowdiness and yes, luck — the hallmarks of the gritty – would be right out front. Instead there was rain, sluggishness, cracked fingernails and Troy Tulowitzki. It was enough to suck the grit off a hunk of sandpaper. It got so that even your intrepid columnist had abandoned all hope and it was only April 21.
What a difference a week makes.
Manager Terry Collins got himself thrown out of the Mets’ win over Houston on that Thursday in the first inning, a day after many had deemed him overly meek when arguing a tight call at second. It seemed the alarm went off, right there. Suddenly, the starters realized that it was OK to stay in a game past the 6th inning. That had the bullpen realize that they wouldn’t be expected to work until their collective arms fell off. That, in turn, had the offense realize that if the pitching was going to be able to keep them in every game, they didn’t have to try and hit an 8-run homer every time up. Even the errors, both physical and mental – I’m looking at YOU, Daniel Murphy – weren’t crippling and have been looked at as part of the learning-curve. They’ve also been rendered fairly harmless by some astonishingly redemptive offense – I’m looking at YOU, Daniel Murphy. That’s grit.
And on Wednesday night in Washington, while trailing 2-1 in the top of the 8th, Reyes cracked a triple to right center, that former “pitcher” Rick Ankiel cannoned in to third. Reyes beat the toss and held the bag with his right hand. Umpire Marvin Hudson disagreed and Reyes went insane. If he had any more of a vertical leap, he’d have vaulted coach/designated restrainer Chip Hale and rocketed into the seventh row. Despair at home, despair in the booth. But this appeared to be the moment of “Fill your hands, you son of a…”
Murphy came up, worked the count to 3-2, and then sent one bouncing off the Capitol Dome to tie it.
But Murph giveth and Murph taketh away. In the bottom of the inning, he became less a participant and more a spectator as Adam LaRoche’s balloon-ball popped out of Jason Bay’s mitt. A wild pitch and a sacrifice-fly later, the Mets trailed once again, heading into the 9th. In other times, heads would be hung and the hope among the fandom would be for the huge bomb or two to give the Mets the lead.
Was there a huge bomb or two which gave the Mets the lead?
It was a rally that would’ve made John McGraw proud. It was what used to be called “inside baseball.” Two singles and a bunt to nowhere – accompanied by a miraculous play by Alex Cora to keep the go-ahead runs from scoring right then and there – a sacrifice fly by Chin-lung Hu, can you believe it, and a groundout by Josh Thole gave the Mets the lead, prompting the quote above. Murphy added a double for good measure, and the Good Guys came away 6-3 winners.
So take the reins in your teeth and come out a-blazin’: you never know what could happen before that 27th out.