Winning (and losing) can be such a drag
By Christopher Heun
Dateline: New York City
The situation: Winning run on third base. Tie game. Two outs. And the batter lays down a bunt just past the reach of the pitcher. Winning run scores. Game over.
That’s how the Mets beat the Rockies Tuesday night in 12 innings. Endy Chavez’s drag bunt made him the hero.
Listening to the game on the radio, I was struck by the dramatic finish because it could have been the exact same outcome for the Orioles the night before, when Melvin Mora tried to bunt home Corey Patterson, the tying run, from third with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Except Mora’s bunt did not get past the pitcher. Patterson could not score. The Birds lost.
It was a good idea – even if Patterson seemed surprised by it – but it didn’t work. Mora's bunt didn't get past A's closer Huston Street, who held Patterson at third. (After an intentional walk to Nick Markakis, Miguel Tejada made the final out of the game.)
It would be easy to draw grand conclusions about the larger fates of the Mets and O's based on this one game. That’s probably not fair. But still, one of these teams is a playoff contender while the other is not.
The Mets won a game with a pinch-hit homer in the 10th by Damian Easley and a bunt single by Chavez, who also had come off the bench, in the 11th. Manager Sam Perlozzo should be so lucky to have such options in the late innings. (And to pull the right strings at just the right time, but that’s another topic for debate.)
By the way, ex-Oriole David Newhan has also found a spot on the Mets’ bench. He had a chance in the 12th too, but struck out.)
Throughout this young season, the Birds have shown a resilient streak and have come from behind to win – something that would not be possible without an improved bullpen that shuts down opposing lineups in the late innings.
But they lost a game on Monday night that they didn’t deserve to win but probably should have won regardless: with runners on second and third with nobody out in the ninth, they failed to score.
Then they followed that disappointment with a poorly played game on Tuesday afternoon filled with more miscommunication and mental mistakes.
With Boston visiting Camden Yards for two games, the Birds could very well sink back to .500 after an impressive winning streak in which they took eight out of nine.
Or maybe not. Maybe Mora redeems himself. I can’t help but think that he may have a doppelganger in Chavez, whose playoff heroics last October in the N.L.C.S. versus St. Louis endeared him to Mets fans much like Mora did during the 1999 postseason.