The Mets are not going to make the playoffs. Not when their starting lineup includes longtime minor leaguers T.J. Rivera and Eric Campbell, and their starting rotation features not-exactly top-shelf prospects Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Gabriel Ynoa
The Mets are not going to make the playoffs, not when they get swept by the last-place, second-worst record in baseball Atlanta Braves, a team that beat them 10 times in 19 meetings. Not when they trail the Phillies by two runs in the ninth inning and two runs in the 11th inning
But wait, this is baseball, a sport in which logic and reason don’t always apply.
The Mets made the game fun again Thursday night. If you consider fun, the baseball torturefest that was an epic 9-8, 11-inning win over the Philadelphia Phillies fun. It took a full roster and then some, a club-record 27 players in all, to win it, with the last swing being Asdrubal Cabrera’s three-run walk-off shot.
The Mets have a long and storied history of unbelievable wins and losses, but this game was a first of its kind. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that this is the first win in Mets history in which they trailed by multiple runs in the ninth inning and in extra innings.
The Mets are in a wild-card spot for the moment, by a half-game, given that the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t play on Thursday. The EKG-like postseason probability has a favorable look to it.
“Tonight’s game personifies what a season is like,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Up and down, up and down.”
It ended on an upward swing, literally, because of Cabrera, whom Collins contemplated hitting fourth only to be talked out of it by assistant hitting coach, Pat Roessler, who noted that Cabrera seems to be locked in like never before hitting in the No. 2 spot behind Jose Reyes.
“He said, ‘I wouldn’t mess with that,’” Collins said.
Cabrera’s home run, his fourth career walk-off homer, soared 396 feet to right field, and Phillies right fielder Peter Bourjos, who has a history of robbing home runs, couldn’t reach this one.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew the ball was going to be out,” said Cabrera, whose .704 slugging percentage since his return on Aug. 19 is the best in the National League and fourth-best in the majors (Gary Sanchez ranks first). “I wasn’t thinking to hit a home run. I was thinking ‘make good contact.’”
Cabrera’s contact matched the 396-foot game-tying shot hit by Reyes in the ninth inning that Aaron Altherr climbed the fence for, but couldn’t reach. Reyes, who had never previously hit a walk-off homer or a game-tying homer that late, declared it the favorite regular-season homer of his career. He gave a salute to the dugout to celebrate.
“I have to enjoy it because I put the team in good position,” Reyes said.
Neither Bourjos nor Altherr did what Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte was able to do on Wednesday — attempt to ruin a season with a home-run robbery.
This season is far from ruined. It has at least nine more games of life left to it. Given the Mets’ history for drama — lots of it, in all shapes and sizes — there will probably be a few more like this. They’ll be nerve-wracking for the fans. But to excel, the players, coaching staff and manager can’t feel those same nerves.
“To play the game at this level, you have to be calm at all times,” Collins said.
Collins may have been the only person in the building able to project outward calm during the game.
It was a desperate but somewhat hopeful crowd of 35,000-plus cheering the Mets on. They booed when Jay Bruce struck out, grimaced when Addison Reed gave up Maikel Franco’s eighth-inning go-ahead home run, groaned at a few non-strike appeals that third-base ump Joe West wouldn’t grant, and moaned when Lucas Duda’s bid for a pinch-hit walk-off home run landed just foul.
Their hope appeared in vain on multiple occasions, but they believed again when Reyes and Cabrera made it possible to do so.
One can imagine that Wednesday was a tough night for the Mets. And Thursday wasn’t looking too good when the news came down that Matz was scratched from Friday’s start with recurring shoulder issues. Ynoa will start in his place.
Regardless, Thursday’s beginning was almost forgotten given the way the evening concluded.
“There’s gonna be some sleeping tonight,” Collins said, answering the final question of his press conference.
And probably some dreaming — of the very much alive hope of playoff baseball.