First off, I want to make sure that I cover the beginning of the game and give proper due to John Buck, Lucas Duda, and Marlon Byrd. All three hit home runs before the ninth inning. Buck keeps his hot start to the season alive with a two run home run. Lucas Duda's home run came in the next inning and proved that he can stop being so damn streaky and hit a home run every once in a while (and hit some baseballs with authority). And Marlon Byrd, well I don't know where his home run came from but it was clutch, terrific, and all that with a side of chips (or an apple if you prefer a healthier alternative with your "all that".)
Now, the rest of the game. The bullpen was interesting tonight. Shaun Marcum only went four and a third, meaning that the 'pen needed to get at least 16 outs. But go figure that they were, for the most part, okay. Scott Rice threw one pitch in the game and got Freddie Freeman to fly out. Brandon Lyon came in for relief against the righty, and his first pitch was slammed for a go-ahead HR by Evan Gattis, putting the Mets on track for another Turner Field Collapse. I saw some bitching about Terry Collins after that, but it was a simple lefty-righty switch … nothing advanced or crazy. So my question is: When are we going to stop blaming Terry for everything and start blaming these pitchers for not making a pitch?
Luckily for Lyon, David Wright performed the impossible and hit a game tying home run in the ninth off of Craig Kimbrel, who Gary Cohen called the "Unhittable Craig Kimbrel". Well not quite, Gary. (Best part of the Wright HR, after he slaps hands with Buck and Ike Davis, he's obviously staring down somebody … Maybe Jeff Foxworthy was yelling one of those jokes at him that went something like "You know you're a Met when you go on the disabled list with a bruised cuticle".) But then Lyon started the ninth and gave up a ringing double to Ramiro Pena to start the inning, which in a lot of ways is worse than giving up a homer to Evan Gattis. So with one out after a sac bunt, and two batters to get before Justin Upton, Terry decided on Bobby Parnell to try to get two outs rather than save him for a save chance and try to get a double play after a walk. I thought it was strange at the time, but then you figure … even if Parnell makes it hard on himself and faces Upton, then guess what? It's Parnell facing Upton and not one of the Doug Sisk pitchalikes in the 'pen. And of course, because he's a Met, Parnell did make it hard on himself and walked Andrelton Simmons to face Upton … and got him to ground out to third. Mission accomplished.
Now the tenth … the two out rally. Everybody's favorite lightning rod Jordany Valdespin, who started the day by missing batting practice, drew a walk with two down and nobody on. Parnell then bats and Valdespin steals on the first pitch, at which point Terry sends up Baxter. This is when former Met Dave Gallagher told an interesting story on Twitter:
"Years ago I witnessed Jeff Torborg try the same thing Terry Collins just did. 2 outs, man on 1st, pitcher due up.Send pitcher up. Runner steals 2nd on first pitch. If he is safe , pinch hit for pitcher. If he's out your pitcher gets another inning. The opposing manager was Jim Leyland. He called time, went to the mound and ordered Tim Wakefield to throw 3 straight slide step fastballs. Runner never broke. Couldn't get a jump. The pitcher, Eric Hillman popped up. Inning over. Leyland is always 2 steps ahead of other managers."
First off, I tried to find this game on Baseball Reference but couldn't quite find it. So some of the details might have been hazy. But I don't doubt for one bit that Jeff Torborg got outmanaged. Because really, who wasn't two steps ahead of Jeff Torborg in 1992 or 1993? Second … good thing Terry Collins, who wears number 10 in honor of Jim Leyland, wasn't managing against him tonight, because he pulled that maneuver off against Fredi Gonzalez as JV1 stole second, Mike Baxter came up for Parnell, and got hit to set up the winning singles by Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy to give the Mets a 7-5 lead. Then Jeurys Familia entered in the tenth and made Collins' game of burning Parnell in the ninth pay off with a 1-2-3 tenth which included a nasty curveball to Dan Uggla which made him contemplate what he's done with his life and leave the Braves to join the circus.
Ron Darling put it best after the game: "The Mets always lose these games here." When I think back to the Mets actually having a handshake line in that dark place, I still think that the Mets had to have lost. But they didn't. Perhaps they didn't exorcise every ghost at Turner Field, but at least they earned the right not to be called Marlins North for the time being.