NEW YORK — On Everyday Keith Hernandez Day, the Mets showed the Marlins precisely what happens when you don’t have a good bankroll.
A series of errors in Miami allowed New York to steal a 5-4 win in 10 innings on Saturday, about five hours after the Mets officially retired No. 17 Hernandez at Citi Field. Known as one of the most defensively solid first basemen in Major League history, Hernandez often comments on the fundamentals — the “fundies,” as he likes to call them — on SNY broadcasts.
On Saturday, the Mets embodied the Hernandez mantra, winning a game on a teeing error with two outs in extra innings for the first time since Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
“I’ll let everyone make the correlations,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Some of the things that happen, you just go, ‘Really?’ We joke about the baseball gods, but sometimes I don’t know.
The Mets appeared to be in significant trouble in the top of the 10th, when the Marlins immediately took the lead as shortstop Francisco Lindor’s throwing error on a Jon Berti single allowed the autorunner to score from second base. But Tomás Nido then pulled Berti out of second base, throwing a pitch through the diamond despite the low probability of turning it into an out. Although Nido’s throw was late, Lindor held the tag on Berti, who lost his balance and fell off the bag.
“We are taught in the Minors to always throw the ball,” Nido said. “You never know what can happen on the other end.”
Fundies, indeed. After Colin Holderman escaped that inning with no trouble, the Mets pulled out two straight strikes to open the bottom of the 10th. Then came the chaos. With two outs, Nido hit a soft-ground fly ball on the third base line, where he spun under Brian Anderson’s glove to allow auto-runner Mark Canha to score.
“It’s on me,” Anderson said. “I should have tried to get dirty and try to keep that ball in the infield and save a run there.”
The next batter, Brandon Nimmo, returned a batter to the mound. Already sprinting hard out of the box, Nimmo – long the modern embodiment of the fundamental game in Flushing – only increased his efforts when he saw pitcher Tanner Scott throw the ball. He reached an elite sprint speed of 29.9 feet per second as he approached first base.
In desperation, Scott threw the ball away which allowed Nido to easily go home with the run.
“Normally I race hard to finish first, so I didn’t really have to do anything different,” said Nimmo. “[I] really [tried] put the pressure on and run as fast as he can so maybe the situation gets the best of him there.
As the Mets emerged from their dugout to invade Nimmo, Hernandez’s audible sighs and moans could almost be heard from afar. An 11-time Gold Glove, Hernandez prided himself on his ability to not only execute the fundamentals of his position, but also capitalize on the mistakes of other teams. The 2022 Mets often seem built in his image, grabbing extra bases and making clubs pay for their mistakes. On Saturday, first baseman Pete Alonso even literally showed up on the field in Hernandez’s image, wearing 1980s-style stirrups and sporting a mustache for the game.
“I’m pretty well aware of what he means,” said Alonso, who scored the Mets’ first run in the fourth. “He means so much to this organization, especially to former players. He’s just super grounded as one of those guys. When you think of the great Mets of the past, obviously No. 17 rings a bell.
Afterwards, Showalter laughed at the serendipitous nature of the situation – that on Hernandez Day, the Mets not only won a fundamentals war, but also tied the game on a small roll on the (third) base line. . He joked that he would let members of the media use their own words to draw the parallels, which on that day didn’t seem that hard to do. At least part of New York’s fundamental success is due to Showalter, which preaches the mundane in a way the old managers didn’t. Lindor, who also homered, called it “the Buck mentality.”
Of course, it was Hernandez’s mentality first, which Showalter well acknowledges. This spring, he made a point of welcoming Hernandez around the batting cage during BP, feeling it was important for his players to interact more frequently with one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Hernandez returned the favor during his pre-game speech Saturday, calling the 2022 Mets one of the most notable teams in recent franchise memory.
“You wanted to prove him right and say they were a team to be reckoned with,” Nimmo said. “We really wanted to try and pull this one off.”