Tuesday night's 6-5, come-from-behind win against the Cardinals was so far my favorite game of the year. It helps that it occurred in St. Louis, which is always a bonus...
The Mets have had more exciting finishes than this in 2018. However, their relentless, creative fight Tuesday night was fun to watch, but also inspiring. And it validated my belief that, when all is said and done, these guys will have completed a very special season.
I've been told manager Mickey Callaway has been pressing to the team, and through his veterans and coaches, that success is borne out of preparation and opportunity. So, whether they're hitting well or not, or pitching well or not, as long as they're prepared each day and always working to create opportunities, their collective talent will find a way to win.
Last night, after being down 2-0, they cut the deficit to one, fell down 4-1, tied the game, again trailed by one, tied it up 5-5, and ultimately pulled ahead, 6-5, after a home run by Jay Bruce in extra innings.
The Mets are now 3-0 in extra inning games and have 10 come-from-behind wins, which is tied with the Phillies for most in baseball. They don't give up because they don't have to. They keep creating opportunities, even when not operating at full speed.
For instance, the Mets struck out nine times and had just six hits Tuesday. However, they drew eight walks against six pitchers -- and two of the hits were home runs. The point is, most of the team's at-bats did not look good. That said, they created opportunities by taking pitches, making the opposition work, and consistently moving themselves around the bases. So, when a pop up was hit to the outfield, a run could score. And when Yoenis Cespedes and Bruce were able to connect -- Yo with a home run and Bruce with a home run and a triple -- five runners crossed the plate.
"It's the day we have been waiting on, to get those guys going," Callaway later added. "They are out there to win and they got the job done tonight."
To be fair to Cespedes, while he may have started Tuesday with the most strikeouts in baseball (37), his 21 RBI in 21 games is the second-most in the National League. By batting second each night, he's getting opportunities to bring men home and help the team win. The fact is, the more pressure he's under, the more productive he has been.
He's hitting just .174 in 72 low- to medium-leverage at bats, during which he has struck out 50 percent of the time. However, in 13 high-leverage at-bats this season, i.e., "clutch moments," he's batting .386 with six RBI and just two strikeouts. Similarly, he's batting .125 when no one is on base, but .282 with men on. Better, he's batting .375 in 24 at bats with runners in scoring position.
Bruce, on other hand, has been pretty bad the entire season. I contend it is mostly due to limited mobility and being distracted by pain in his foot due to plantar fasciitis. He is on record saying the condition is being overstated. As I wrote the other day, rest is key for dealing with his situation. So, it should be of no surprise that after finally getting two consecutive days off (Sunday and Monday), Bruce picked up three hits Tuesday, including running 270 feet for an RBI triple.
"The season has not gone as well as I would have liked it to, for me, individually, but we're playing great as a team and the guys have been pitching me up," Bruce told SNY after the game. "It feels good to help the ballclub a little bit."
His three hits Tuesday helped raise his batting average to .222. However, if I'm correct about his plantar fasciitis being a problem, he'll struggle today and tomorrow and return to hesitating at bat and moving slow in the field. Hopefully, they were a magical two days off, though, he's fine and ready to burst out of his offensive funk.
"I think overall my timing has been a little off," Bruce said after the game. "It hasn't felt really in sync for an extended period of time yet."
Thankfully, Bruce helps the Mets in ways other than just his bat. He's such an easy-going, even-keel, relaxed guy, always focused and confident, despite his struggles or pain, that his personality and approach sets a terrific tone for the type of culture Callaway is wanting to create.
Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland have repeatedly said the decision is easier because these Mets are not about one player, they're about 25 guys working together to win. It's also about being prepared, and hustling all night to create opportunities. This was most evident Tuesday. This is the 2018 Mets, it is the Callaway Culture, and I like it a lot.
By the way, Bobby Valentine, John Harper, Bob Heussler and I will be talking Mets on Monday, May 14, at the Fairfield Theatre Co. helping to raise money for The Bridgeport Field of Dreams Foundation...
The event will include a live panel discussion, audience Q&A, meet and greet, and raffle prizes, which includes Mets memorabilia, game tickets and more.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!