Saturday, July 07, 2018

The 337th Time’s the Charm! Jose Bautista (Joey Bats) Hits His First Walk-Off Home Run, at age 37, a Grand Slam, to Make It Impossible for the Mets to Lose Last Night against Tampa Bay


“Joey Bats”

By Nicholas Stix

[Note: In case anyone should accuse me of stealing my headline (should someone else in the meantime have also used it), I first posted this essay, with the same hed, at WebCommentary at 11: 59 p.m. last night, and then forgot to publish it here until now.]

Break up the Mets! The heartbreakers from Flushing are now 3-1 in July.

One of the announcers said, “It’s too early to call it Groundhog Day,” but it was close. Jacob deGrom gave his usual brilliant performance, and, as usual, the Mets didn’t score for him. DeGrom left after eight innings with a 1-1 tie.

The Mets could have won it for deGrom, but you know how a bad team finds ways to screw up? Well, this time it wasn’t a player, but a coach. With Wilmer Flores on first, Todd Frazier hit a double off the center field wall. Seeing as Flores is in contention for the booby prize as the slowest player in baseball, you hold him up at third base. Not so. Mets third base coach Glenn Sherlock waved him on. The Rays’ catcher could have run to the bathroom, come back, and still had time to tag Flores out.

As Mets announcer Gary Cohen put it,
“Sherlock a little overaggressive with the slow-footed Flores, who’s out by 25 feet.”
That killed a rally in the sixth inning.

In the top of the ninth, a struggling Jeurys Familia loaded the bases, and Flores again screwed up, this time all on his own, while playing first base. Playing up for the force at the plate, or even a double play, Flores fielded a soft ground ball and threw a lollipop to catcher Devin Meseraco. Flores’ throw was so soft and so high that if Meseraco had waited for it with his foot on the plate, the Rays’ runner would have beat it. Instead, he tagged the runner out in the nick of time.

The force out was upheld on appeal to baseball’s Supreme Court in Chelsea.

Wilmer Flores is currently our best clutch hitter, but there are a lot of holes in his game.

As for Familia, he is no longer the dominant regular season closer/postseason choker of recent vintage. He’s now capable of choking at any time.

A young sportswriter I know who earns a living driving a taxi told me today that Familia hasn’t been the same since he went under the knife to get a blood clot removed from his shoulder.

As if to underscore the cabbie’s point, Mets announcer Ronnie Darling today said that Familia is frequently dropping his shoulder when throwing his slider, which causes him to get under the ball, and hang the slider. Darling said you throw the way that’s comfortable, but that you have to get on top of the ball, in order to properly throw the slider.

While Darling didn’t mention the surgery, that was the unspoken point to what he did say.

Familia is expected to be dealt at the July 31 trade deadline, if not sooner.

The Rays brought right-handed reliever Chaz Roe back for the ninth, after he'd gotten the final out of the eighth inning.

A baseball cliché says “walks kill,” when they’re by a reliever of the leadoff hitter, and that’s a cliché (or rather, stereotype) with a high percentage of corroboration.

Roe walked Mets leadoff hitter Todd Frazier. Devin Meseraco (6’1,” 229), who had never made a sacrifice bunt as a big leaguer, tried to bunt for a few pitches. He then pulled a “butcher boy” play, faking a bunt, and pulling back and swinging. Meseraco hit a hard grounder past the third baseman, who was playing in for the bunt.

Men on first and second.

Lanky shortstop Amed Rosario, who recently took off three days to go to bunting school, laid down a perfect, hard bunt down the third base line, forcing Rays third baseman Matt Duffy to field it and throw to first, barely nipping the speedy Rosario, and advancing Frazier to third.

One out, men on second and third.

Beefy Dominick Smith pinch hit, and hit a grounder back to the pitcher, who easily threw him out at first, forcing the runners to hold.

Two outs.

That brought up a slumping Brandon Nimmo, whom the Rays intentionally walked.

Bases loaded, with two outs.

Now comes Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista. Roe throws him a 93-mph fastball on the first pitch, and Bautista gets all of it, hitting it into the second deck at the Mets’ corporate field.

Game over.

As Bautista would tell SNY sideline reporter Steve Gelbs, Roe was trying to come inside on him, but the ball drifted back towards the middle of the plate.

When Bautista came to New York, after being bade farewell by Toronto, where he’d had his salad days, at the end of 2017, and being cut by Atlanta earlier this season, I didn’t expect much. I’d seen other baseball senior citizens pass through, at the end of their careers.

Moises Alou still had that sweet, lefty swing, and was hitting over .340 for us in 2007-2008, but he couldn’t crack a smile without landing on the disabled list.

Ditto for notorious juicer Gary Sheffield in 2009.

However, the 37-year-old Bautista came to the Mets in much better shape than the aforementioned gentlemen. He was trim, busted it down the line, and (for the most part) played solid defense.

While at first, Bautista would hit hard singles to the outfield, he seems to have recovered his power, but as a retooled line-drive hitter, and now has more extra base hits (14) than singles (10), for a .583 average within his base hits. His numbers are: Batting: .255; On-Base: .432; and Slugging: .489.

So, there’s a little ray of sunshine in the Mets’ dark season. Accent on little. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The last year Bautista played in Toronto,I was listening to one of their games on Sirius radio and the Toronto announcers were discussing the fact that at his age,Bautista couldn't hit all the pitches anymore--unless he specifically was looking for one.He couldn't adjust his swing and was striking out a lot or popping it up.He was gone from Toronto soon after.
--GR Anonymous