Sometimes the game of baseball makes a lot of sense.
A clean scorecard and box score can tell the whole story, showing exactly what happened and making it perfectly clear why one team beat the other.
Sometimes you get a game like the one the Yankees and Mets played on Tuesday night, where a base error and a surprising defensive choice made one of the game’s most important plays, catcher’s interference, Pete Alonso breaking his bat over his knee in frustration (and swearing after the game that it didn’t hurt), and two of the singles in the winning rally were not good at all.
“We just couldn’t get a break with a lot of balls,” Buck Showalter said.
The Yankees won 4-2 thanks to incredible luck with the bat, several instances of clutch defense and an abnormally long relief appearance to save the day. The raucous crowd at Yankee Stadium loved it, and when asked about the bullies who helped the Yankees win, the Mets manager gave a cheeky response.
“It was almost as good as what we had at Citi Field.”
It started out normal enough, with the first three innings complete with zeroes as Mets pitcher Tyjuan Walker overcame a back problem to retire each of the Yankees’ first nine hitters. Then Aaron Judge walked out in the fourth inning, one of the most common occurrences in baseball these days. Judge is now sitting on 48 home runs and has a good chance to reach 50 before the calendar turns to September.
“It’s supposed to be a sinker,” Walker said of the pitch Judge scored. “He was well placed, but he hits the balls really well. It just wasn’t the right move. He just covers the ball well, up [and] down.”
The fifth inning gave the Yankees’ youngest player, Osvaldo Cabrera, a chance to seize a Subway Series moment. After Brett Batey reached into catcher’s interference, Tomas Nido hit his 11th sacrifice bunt of the season (he would add another later to extend his MLB lead in that category). That put two runners in batting position for Starling Marte, who hit a single to right field directly on Cabrera’s charge.
Cabrera, who started at four different positions in his first seven games, looked like a right fielder here. He threw a no-hitter to cut short 1999 guy Betty and keep the Mets from tying the game. Then things entered a much weirder stage.
The play that tied the game for the Mets one inning later can best be described as wonderfully stupid. Jeff McNeil hit a double to right field, setting up Alonso on a dead sprint for home. Alonso, who Statcast has in the 14th percentile for sprint speed, may have started moving too quickly. He appeared to blow a tire going about third, caught between base and final destination. McNeil, anticipating the throw home, had already made a wide turn around second base as well.
“I didn’t hit the bag well enough to round third,” Alonso explained. “It made me stumble a bit, but it worked out for the best.”
Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres, who received the relay throw, never seemed to notice that Alonso was hung out to dry. Instead, he headed to second base to try to tag out McNeil, resulting in no outs and the Mets tying the game.
As the teams headed into the bottom of the seventh deadlocked at two, it was Joely Rodriguez’s time. The subject of so much bullpen terror in Queens, Rodriguez blew a lead again, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. Cabrera led off with a single and moved to second on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s perfect hit. Then, what should have been the second out, Jose Trevino dropped a lazy ball to right field between three Mets, heralding the eventual loss.
One batter later, Andrew Benintendi hit an innocuous-looking ground ball that went through the infield to give the Yankees the lead. A few feet either way and the Mets might have had an outfielder, but like Trevino diving into shallow right, no one could get him in the glove when it was needed most.
An insurance RBI single by Judge capped it off as the Mets held off Yankees long reliever Clark Schmidt for three innings. Schmidt had two saves in three innings earlier this year, but both came in sharp blasts. But when Yankee manager Aaron Boone trusted him with a tight at-bat on Tuesday, then tried to let him pitch until the end for a rare 10-out save, there was something else about that game that you might not have seen all season.
Instead, there was Wandy Peralta, called on to replace Schmidt and face Francisco Lindar with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, who also pulled off a rare one-out save.
On Tuesday night, these once-in-a-blue-moon quirks were surprisingly commonplace. For the Mets, Wednesday brings another oddity: just the second day off since July 29.
“It’s going to be good, I’m not going to lie to you,” Alonso said with a smile.
“We’re going to go home and try to set things up again,” Showalter said.