Last night’s walk-off win buoyed the New York Mets another game in the standings, but it represents something even more impactful: the turning point of the 2016 season.Two outs in the bottom of the 10th. An empty bench. A taxed bullpen with its major arms already out of commission. A game the Mets need to end swiftly.
Last night, from the outset, a win would be looked at as a steal with the Mets set to give the ball to Rafael Montero, whose Triple-A Las Vegas ERA sat north of 7.00 upon promotion. It would be fair to call Montero the Mets’ ninth starter, as management feared his sometimes uncontrollable stuff would rear its ugly head in the bigs, enough so that he was passed over for the likes of Logan Verrett, Jon Niese, and Robert Gsellman.
If that sounds like a stolen victory, consider the fact that his opposition was Miami ace Jose Fernandez, making a win would look more like grand larceny.
Fernandez, 2.57 career ERA and all, lived up to advertisement, and Montero — despite walking six batters in five innings of work — outshined expectations and kept his head above water. He exited in a scoreless tie.
Four and a half innings later, though, the Mets-Marlins matchup remained stalemated after the two clubs traded runs in the eighth. To the top of the 10th went a game that was calling to come to justice in the most dramatic way possible. It had all the makings of that elusive to describe yet omnisciently understood type of game.
With Jose Reyes and Alejandro de Aza retired, up stepped Yoenis Cespedes. Gary Cohen so fittingly observed that the man at the plate, Cespedes, was the best candidate to end the game with one swing.
Which is exactly what he did. And there was not a doubt about it.
Cespedes slugged a Nick Wittgren fastball to section 138 in left-center field, ending the ballgame and beginning a new tale — a new tale of a season with hope of turnaround.
Quite possibly, the season turned around the moment the ball left Wittgren’s hand. Because at that moment, the fate of that ball to be uncorked into the Flushing moonlight was the result of destiny, or maybe, just the potency in Yoenis Cespedes’ bat.
I’d air on the side of the latter in saying that this win was by no means the work of serendipity. Instead, call it a coup — a coup of the Mets’ season in which Cespedes has overtaken the team’s bout of mediocrity and steadied the ship toward its provincial end: October baseball.
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Of course, that attitude of hope for postseason bliss is entirely dependent on execution from the Mets, a mission the team showcased an ability to accomplish in last year’s stretch run.
This season, though, the clock ticks closer to metaphorical midnight, roving toward an unavoidable fate which will either unlock the raging intensity of playoff baseball in Queens again, or have players booking trips for their offseason time.
Optimism and pessimism are objects of subjective thinking. The fact, though, is that last night’s Cespedes-powered Met victory counts for just one tally in the win column.
Yet, at the same time, it symbolizes an undeniable manifestation of where the Mets can go. No, it’s not whimsical to say that destination is Flushing, New York in early October.
Because with Cespedes’ swing of the bat, the Mets have taken their season back.
And the ball continues to fly.