As we mentioned yesterday, the “2 Guys” Team is on the case down here, taking on the place formerly known as the “House of Horrors.” Well, maybe it’s because I grew up in the ’70′s in New York, when movies were being made called “Escape From New York.” But, yawn. It’s just a stadium, a very nice one in fact. It didn’t scare us, and last night at least, it didn’t bother the Mets. And last night, at Turner Field of all places, I was reminded again of why I love watching baseball so much. Because if you follow a team, any team, day in and day out over 162 games, you will get some great ones every season, with drama and plot. A game like May 3, 2013, Mets versus Braves.
Now there was good crisp baseball all night, but since I want to get some hotel coffee I’m going to skip some, and head right to the ninth inning. That is because I want to point out that at the end of a long week, Terry Collins had a very good night last night. I doubt that will be in many game stories. It never is, when a manager pushes the right buttons it is ignored, when things go south or he pushes odd buttons it is big news. Not just for Collins, but for all managers. If the team loses he’s the target. If they win, most moves are forgotten anyway.
In the ninth, with the game on the line, Collins brought in his closer in a tie game, with an inning very much in play already. Runner on third, one out. And that closer came through. Then in the tenth, two outs, nobody on. It’s Brown due up with Parnell on deck. Collins pinch-hits Valdespin for Brown.
Yeah, and we thought that was curious. Valdespin was going to be walked, clearly, with Parnell on deck. So it felt like he might be wasting The Secret Weapon. Use Baxter. Or, hey, let Brown hit, maybe he pops a bomb. So, predictably, they pitch around Jordany who trots down to first base. Up comes Bobby Parnell. Unfortunate, but, hey, the bullpen was practically empty already, with only Familia left. I should have seen the next event coming, but didn’t. Jordany stole second, cool. Then Collins pulls Parnell for Baxter — and we realized this was the Master Plan all along. We were caught off guard. And so were the Braves, who could have pitched out or slide-stepped or taken some other defensive measure.
Two outs in a tie game, it’s a tough call to burn Parnell. Jordany steals, great play, he makes it and gets in scoring position. If he is thrown out, Parnell goes back for another inning. Terry Collins won the chess match.
But that fascinating moment never arrives unless somebody steps up big time.
That’s right. Players win games. And great players win the most. Players like David Wright.
We only have one player on this roster that you can really believe has a shot against Craig Kimbrel. Sure enough last night it turned out he had a shot at him. Kimbrel blew a couple of fastballs by Wright, and then got over-confident. He just kept throwing fastballs. the last one went far, and a lost game was back in play.
That created everything that happened after that, which included a very impressive bottom of the tenth from Familia. His first save, and with his stuff, bookmark that if you saw it. There might be more before he is done.
Familia looked great, a refreshing change from the parade of crafty veterans we’ve been featuring. Collins has seemed reluctant to use him this year, and rarely in high-leverage situations, but here he had no choice. Jeurys delivered and, hopefully, opened some eyes. A bullpen that desperately needs a shot in the arm just may have found that arm last night, almost by accident. This kid needs more opportunities, starting now.
Also, in fairness, Marlon Byrd played a terrific game. Andrew Brown looked okay and flashed a strong arm. Duda went yard against a lefty. Buck kept the magic alive. Ruben and Daniel got huge hits. Also, Marcum looked very good to us. He’s not in shape, basically didn’t have a spring training, so at around 80 pitches he was running on vapors. But this guy can pitch, changes speeds, changes eye levels, gets swing-and-misses on a fastball that chugs in at 86 MPH. Forget the ERA, he’s going to help a lot.
Okay, that’s it for now, to the coffee. Oh, and a heads up for everyone as I can see Turner Field from my window, there might not be baseball tonight.
Over 162 days there are days like that too.