Thursday, August 6, 2020

Happy Baseball

The Mets played their best game of the season last night. They still failed miserably in bringing home runners in scoring position, but just about everything else they did was a huge upgrade over most of their previous efforts, particularly the defense. After being almost unwatchable for most of their first dozen games, last night's win was compelling and rather fun. At one point I actually thought to myself, oh yeah, this is why I love baseball. That moment came in the Nationals' half of the fourth inning when the whole game turned on a couple of great defensive efforts.

Until that half inning, the game wasn't looking like anything that was going to make me happy. The Mets had first and third with no outs in the top of the first, and only managed a single run out of it on Dom Smith's sacrifice fly. Porcello gave that lead right back in the bottom of the inning, and I thought to myself, here we go again. But it wasn't quite déjà vu, because even though the Mets squandered baserunners in the second and third innings, Porcello put up a couple of zeros.

The Mets scratched out a second run in the top of the fourth, but also left men on base. In the bottom of the frame Soto singled leading off for the Nats, and it just kind of felt like Porcello was going to cough up the lead, maybe even worse. Then, after a flyout, our old friend Asdrubel Cabrera singles to right field, Soto's motoring to third, and the game is going in the wrong direction fast. Michael Conforto (in RF where he's pretty good, not CF where he's not) makes a great throw to third, but Soto beats it. It's going to be first and third, one out - only Soto overslides third, Andres Gimenez makes a heads-up play and keeps the tag on him, and there's two outs with a man on first. J.D. Davis makes a great play on a ball that Thames hits that looks destined for the left field corner, then throws him out from his knees, and the inning is over.

I thought I might have been in the Twilight Zone for a minute, but then I realized that I was watching a Mets game where good defenders were playing the right positions. Porcello seemed to realize it, too, because he started looking relaxed and pounding the zone with sinkers. He didn't allow another baserunner as he became the first Mets starter to pitch 7 innings. It was almost stunning.

Injuries basically forced the Mets into fielding a good defensive team and, at least for one day, they reaped the rewards from it. They still left a zillion guys on base, and the game was a nail biter all the way through, but they won the game in a manner that was actually fun to watch despite the continued struggles plating baserunners.

As good as Porcello wound up pitching in that game, it really felt like it could have gone a completely different way if those plays weren't made behind him in the fourth inning. It was so obviously the turning point of that game. If - and I stress the word if  - the Mets can string a few good performances together and climb back in the race, that inning might prove to be a major turning point on the season. Either way, after a lot of bad baseball over the first couple of weeks of the season, that game was a joy to watch.

Andres Gimenez continues to impress with his defense and his offense. He's hitting .320, and still has only struck out twice in 26 plate appearances. Most of the rest of the Mets offense strikes out more than that in batting practice. The only thing that bothers me a little is that he has only drawn one walk. He's probably not going to keep hitting .320, and he's going to need to draw some walks going forward to put up a solid on base percentage. Still, that's a quibble. He's doing nicely in a manner I don't think anyone expected, and more power to him.

One thing I appreciate about J.D. Davis is that he works hard to improve his defense. He's looking better at third than he has in left field. He's still a work in progress, but if he can make himself into even just a slightly below average third baseman, that would be a valuable contribution. If I was the manager, I'd try to get him more games at third going forward to see if he can keep it going,

So, a day after I was honestly ready to run up the white flag on this team that put forth a solid effort. But do they keep it going against the Marlins, or do they play down to the Marlins level? You just never know with the Mets. I sure hope they do, I'd like to continue watching games where they surprise me in a positive way.

Okay, I'm out of here. Sorry for the lateness of this post, today was a long day. Didn't even have a chance to catch dinner until after 10 pm. How very European of me.

Stay safe, be well and take care. I'll be back tomorrow.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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