For seven and a half innings tonight, it looked like the Nationals were going to return the favor and sweep the Mets at Citi Field.
It also seemed like the team was resigned to that fact and ready to move onto a long road trip with the Nationals out of the Mets hair for the next few months.
But then the eighth inning happened. A nine-spot in the bottom of the eighth turned 4-2 Nationals into 11-4 Mets in the eventual 11-5 Amazin’ win.
“It was really big,” said manager Mickey Callaway. “The players in that clubhouse are never going to give up. We are going to blow a game here and there and we won’t win some games, but they are never going to stop. That was evidenced tonight.”
That’s the story early on for these Mets. Sure, it was easy when piling on teams like the Marlins and Phillies. The Mets are supposed to win those games. It’s what they do with the Nationals is what’s going to decide the division.
Monday it was the Nationals turn to say they are still here. Tonight, the Mets needed to tell the Nats, this race was more than just a hot start.
And those type of statement games are important. The Nationals needed Monday’s game to stop the bleeding and let the Mets know the race isn’t decided in April. Tonight, the Mets needed to respond in kind and make sure losing three of the last four didn’t become something greater.
In that faithful eighth, it wasn’t just that the Mets were able to beat up a tired Ryan Madson, Juan Largares’s at bat was a demonstration on why analytics are not the end-all, be-all in this game. Because Nats manager Dave Martinez shifted his infield, Ryan Zimmerman was playing out of position and in the hole between first and second. Lagares’s line drive would have been fielded cleanly and the inning would have ended, if Zimmerman was playing in a more traditional spot.
And that has been the story so far this season for these rookie managers. Every one of them made their mistakes – including Callaway – and it cost their teams. Of the four Met wins against the Nats, two of them came because of managerial errors.
Either way the Mets will take it as a .500 homestand is much better than 2-4 with a sweep by the Nats on the books.
The page now must turn and hopefully the weather becomes more baseball like as the Mets go to Atlanta for four games. At 9-7, they are a hot start and an interesting story as well.
“(This was) just another win in the season when you look at it,” Callaway said. “But these guys never give up.”
The Braves will be learning that this weekend.