June 16, 2013: Marlon and Kirk Slug Cubs in 9th

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Date: June 16, 2013
Mets starter: Jeremy Hefner
Mets: 4
Cubs: 3
Winning pitcher: Bobby Parnell
Key player(s): Marlon Byrd, Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Key play: Byrd’s and Nieuwenhuis’s home runs

The Mets faced the Cubs on a Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. The teams played the finale of a three-game series. Marlon Byrd and Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit home runs in the ninth inning for a 4-3 Mets win over Chicago.

Luis Valbuena singled against Mets’ starter Jeremy Hefner to lead off the top of the first inning. Starlin Castro singled and Nate Schierholtz followed with a force play ground ball to first baseman Daniel Murphy. Alfonso Soriano hit a single to drive home Valbuena for a 1-0 Cubs lead. Hefner retired Anthony Rizzo on a fly ball to left fielder Lucas Duda and struck out Dioner Novarro to end the inning. Chicago’s Matt Garza then gave up just a double to David Wright in the bottom half.

Hefner and Garza each pitched scoreless ball from the second inning to the fourth. With two outs in the top of the fifth, Castro singled and Schierholtz drew a walk. Alfonzo reached on a throwing error by third baseman Wright. On the play, Murphy made an errant throw to the plate that allowed both Castro and Schierholtz to score as Soriano moved to third. Rizzo grounded back to Hefner to close out the inning and Duda hit a double to open the bottom half. John Buck went down on strikes and Omar Quintanilla popped out to second baseman Darwin Barney. Garza then walked Nieuwenhuis and got pinch-hitter Justin Turner on a pop-up to shortstop Castro that ended the inning.

Mets’ reliever Carlos Torres yielded only a single to Barney in the top of the sixth. Garza hurled a scoreless bottom half and Torres retired the side in order in the top of the seventh. Buck singled to lead off the bottom of the inning. Quintanilla hit a force play ground ball to Castro and a pop-up by Nieuwenhuis was caught by third baseman Valbuena. Garza threw a called third strike past pinch-hitter Joshua Satin to end the inning and New York’s David Aardsma retired the side in order in the top of the eighth. Cubs’ reliever James Russell then pitched a perfect bottom half.

Mets’ reliever Bobby Parnell set down the side 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth. Leading off the bottom of the inning, Byrd homered against Chicago’s Carlos Marmol. Duda drew a walk and Buck followed with a single to right field. Quintanilla’s sacrifice bunt advanced the runners to second and third base. Nieuwenhuis came to bat and slugged a three-run homer to end the game. The Mets had an exciting come-from-behind victory.

"If there was ever a team than needed a magic moment, it was the New York Mets on father's day and Kirk Nieuwenhuis delivered it..." -- Mets announcer Gary Cohen.

Bob Costas took a different view. "A team 14 games under .500 celebrates as if it just won the seventh game of the World Series. Another indication of the ongoing decline of western civilization."

Mets reacted differently on Twitter

  • Mets' long time PR man Jay Horwitz joke tweeted "Mets held team meeting in Atlanta tonight. Vowed no more on field celebrations after wins. Players will now yell quietly in lockers. (He then Tweeted that Costas called to apologize. "Case closed.")
  • David Aardsma: I love Bob Costas but are we supposed to roll over and die on the season? Or should we celebrate the excitement of a huge comback. This might be the beginning of something huge, we needed that win as a team. That's what we were celebrating.

Aardsma turned out to be right. Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth the sleepwalking Mets were about to drop to 24-40 while getting swept at home by a bad Cubs team. The home run that ended western civilization began a 29-22 surge (through August 10), and may long be remembered as the moment the franchise turned it around.