Now, That’s How to Win a Ball Game
By Joe Short
Fresh off the back of a series defeat in Los Angeles, the Mets needed a win Thursday night to prove to us all that this team has the backbone to make the playoffs this season. Three defeats on the road is tough to take but even tougher when your NL Wildcard rival is sauntering past last year’s champions.
But let’s forget about the Nationals and concentrate on ourselves, for Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Padres could greatly affect the MLB betting odds for where we finish this season. Not only did the win stop a three-game rut but it also opens up our weekend series with San Antonio that could put a shine on this 11-day tour of the west.
What we saw on Thursday was a team determined to grind out a result, and that is what we all need right now. The man who stepped up was Zack Wheeler, who fanned a career high 12 in six innings. Where on earth that came from no one knows, but the 5-2 pitcher will be given more responsibility now he’s proven his arm.
Juan Lagares also proved his arm in centre field as he threw maybe the most important play of the game, reaching John Buck’s glove at the home plate in the bottom of the fifth – a split second before Tyson Ross could dive in. With a display of pitching and fielding excellence not seen in the Mets defense for some time, it was down to the offense to prove their worth.
Marlon Byrd was the man to provide it and punters can thank their luck his eighth-inning hit to right field sailed inches over a San Diego glove. Fans betting MLB World Series shouldn’t be too surprised with Byrd’s two-run hit to second base. The 35-year-old averaged two hits a game against the Dodgers and homered Wednesday night, so was a good price to earn the Mets a run or two Thursday. The problem now is that Byrd, Lagares and Wheeler – in fact, the entire team – must use this victory to get close to Washington by the end of next week.
On paper, the NL East looks a foregone conclusion because of Atlanta’s surge, yet second place is there to play for if the Mets can string together series wins. A three-game showdown at Nationals Park is scheduled for the turn of the month and we’ve got to be ready to fight for the Wildcard place.