NEW YORK. On Keith Hernandez Day, the Mets showed the Marlins exactly what happens when you don’t have good money.
A run of misses in Miami gave New York a 5-4 win in 10 innings on Saturday, about five hours after the Mets officially retired Hernandez’s No. 17 at City Field. Known as one of the most reliable basemen in Major League history, Hernandez often comments on fundamentals—”fundi,” as he likes to call them—on SNY broadcasts.
On Saturday, the Mets lived out the Hernandez mantra by winning the game on a two-out error in extra innings for the first time since Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
“I’ll let everyone else do the correlations,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Some things that just happen, you just say, ‘Really?’ We joke about baseball gods, but sometimes I don’t know.”
The Mets were in serious trouble early in the 10th when the Marlins immediately took the lead as shortstop Francisco Lindor threw an error on John Bertie’s infield throw, allowing the autorunner to hit from second base. But Thomas Nido subsequently took Bertie off second base with a throw over the diamond, despite realizing the low likelihood of it turning into an out. Though Nido’s throw was belated, Lindor kept his mark on Bertie, who lost his balance and fell off the bag.
“At the minors, we are taught to always throw the ball,” Nido said. “You never know what might happen on the other end.”
Foundations indeed. After Colin Holderman escaped that half without issue, the Mets scored twice in a row to open the end of the 10th. Then chaos ensued. With two outs, Nido hit a soft ground ball down the third base line, where it flew under Bryan Anderson’s glove, allowing auto runner Mark Kanye to score.
“This is my merit,” Anderson said. “I had to try to get dirty and try to keep the ball in the infield and keep a run there.”
The next batter, Brandon Nimmo, hit the tapper back into the mound. Nimmo, who was already actively running out of the box, had long been the modern-day incarnation of Flushing’s fundamental game, but only stepped up his efforts when he saw pitcher Tanner Scott toss the ball. He achieved an elite sprint speed of 29.9 fps as he approached first base.
In desperation, Scott dropped the ball, giving Nido an easy run home.
“Usually I run first with all my might, so I didn’t have to do anything,” Nimmo said. “[I] Indeed [tried] to apply pressure and run as fast as I could, maybe just get the situation to get the better of him.”
When Metz poured out of the dugout to surround Nimmo, Hernandez’s sighs and groans could almost be heard from afar. An 11-time Golden Glover, Hernandez prided himself on his ability to not only execute on the fundamentals of his position, but also capitalize on other teams’ mistakes. The 2022 Mets often seem to be built in his image, grabbing extra bases and making clubs pay for their mistakes. On Saturday, first baseman Pete Alonso even literally appeared on the field dressed as Hernandez, wearing 1980s-style stirrups and a mustache for the game.
“I know pretty well what he means,” said Alonso, who homered for the Mets’ first start in the fourth. “He means so much to this organization, especially to former players. He’s just super rooted as one of those guys. When you think of the great Mets from the past, it’s obvious that number 17 rings the bell.”
Afterwards, Showalter laughed at the random nature of the situation—that on Hernandez’s day, the Mets not only won the war of fundamentals, but evened the game on a small roller down the (third) base line. He joked that he would allow members of the media to draw parallels in their own words, which on this day seemed not so difficult. At least part of New York’s fundamental success has been due to Showalter, who preaches the worldly in a way that previous managers never did. Lindor, who is also a home-reader, called it “the Buck mentality”.
Of course, at first it was the Hernandez mentality, which Showalter understands well. He welcomed Hernandez to the cage during BP this spring, believing it was important that his players interact with one of the franchise’s greatest players more often. Hernandez returned the favor during his pre-game speech on Saturday, calling the 2022 Mets one of the most notable teams in the franchise’s recent memory.
“You wanted to prove him right and say that this team is to be reckoned with,” Nimmo said. “We definitely wanted to try and get it out.”
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