The best game of 2010 so far has some similarity to the best game of 2009, which also featured a catcher hitting a game-winning ninth-inning homer (Omir Santos off of Jonathan Papelbon). But tonight's Rod Barajas walk-off was better. Last year's exciting win over the Red Sox was an anomaly - one of the few bright spots in a dismal year. Tonight's win offers hope for more great things this season.
Last year, Omir Santos was a great story - an unknown older rookie off to a good start getting the best of an All-Star closer. But Santos was ultimately not that good a hitter, or, for that matter, a good catcher.
Barajas now has nine homers, including two ninth-inning game winners in a span of three games. Last year, Daniel Murphy led the Mets with 12 homers for the entire year.
The Mets have endured numerous bullpen collapses over the last few years. Rarely did they come back from them as they did tonight. After Francisco Rodriguez gave up the game-tying homer to John Bowker, the Mets made not one, but two spectacular fielding plays in the same inning to keep the game tied. Ike Davis' sensational flip into the dugout and Luis Castillo's diving stop that saved a run were the top two Web Gems on ESPN tonight. The Mets saving a game with defense? Castillo saving a game with defense?
So when the game went into the bottom of the ninth, it wasn't "same old Mets, blowing it again," but a team that was going to keep fighting. Jeff Francoeur nearly beat out an infield hit. Ike Davis worked out a walk. Then Barajas hit his game-winning homer.
Last year, if the Mets made three errors and blew a save, they would have lost. If the starting pitcher took the mound a few days after undergoing an MRI, he would soon be headed to the DL.
In May 2008, Angel Pagan dove into the stands going after a foul ball. He made a great play, but landed on his shoulder. Pagan came back to pinch hit a couple of times, then missed the rest of the season.
Whether it's luck or skill or perhaps Alex Cora helping to catch him, Davis has now flipped over into the dugout twice in his short career and come up unscathed both times.
So many good things happened tonight - Pelfrey pitching well enough to win after his MRI and poor start against the Phillies; Jose Reyes stealing a base after a long drought; Jason Bay snapping his hitless streak. And while the stars were Barajas and Davis, you know it's a special game when a guy hits two homers, including a walk-off, and he has competition for star of the game.
The only thing missing tonight was a pie in the face for Barajas. But this was the first walk-off homer at Citi Field, so maybe the Mets weren't expecting to need a pie. With this team, however, it's time to start keeping some pies on hand.