On a shelf in his spare locker at Citi Field, Brandon Nimmo has a baseball with a series of markings by Wayne Kirby, the Mets’ first base coach. Kirby noted the info from a stellar play Nimmo made earlier this summer, inscribing it: “Best Catch 2022.”
Kirby might must reconsider; best, in any case, is a relative term. Forget probabilities and exit velocities — the catch Nimmo made within the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, to rob a homer from Justin Turner and save Jacob deGrom’s 2-1 victory, was a slice of baseball perfection.
The play, and the sport, had all of it: the 2 best teams within the National League, a sellout crowd of 41,799, a crisp pace, great players doing great things, even a live trumpet performance on the sector before the highest of the ninth inning.
“I’ve got to inform you, when now we have a full house, I need the new dogs to be hot, I need the beer to be cold, I need the parking to not be an issue, I need them to depart here and go, ‘Boy, that was price it and I need to come back again,’” Mets Manager Buck Showalter said.
“We now have a responsibility to be able to play, and that’s my first thought: If I went to this game tonight and I got within the automotive and went home, it was fun. That’s what it ought to be — and so they picked us over the U.S. Open.”
A championship wasn’t really at stake within the Mets’ a part of Queens, it only felt that way. The Dodgers are 90-39, running away with the N.L. West, and on Tuesday they beat the Mets to maintain Timmy Trumpet, an excitable Australian musician, from playing his “Narco” anthem for closer Edwin Díaz.
On Wednesday, Timmy got to do his thing — and so did Díaz, who retired the side within the ninth to complete the sport just 2 hours 19 minutes after it began. It gave the Mets a 19-11 record for the month, their most victories in August since 2015, the last 12 months they won the pennant.
DeGrom is the one player left from that World Series roster, and he’s pitching at full strength, eventually, after missing greater than a 12 months with arm trouble. On Wednesday he worked seven innings for the primary time in almost 14 months, allowing two harmless singles and a Mookie Betts homer while striking out nine.
Even so, deGrom said, “There have been quite a couple of balls hit hard and so they were all mistakes — and so they hit mistakes. I had good defense behind me tonight and I’m thankful for that.”
Nimmo provided one of the best defense of all. A free agent after this season, Nimmo has worked diligently to enhance his outfield range and said he had gained an additional foot per second to his speed since 2020. He added that analytics had helped his positioning, including on Turner’s at-bat within the seventh, when Nimmo shaded him to the right-field side of center.
He needed the top start. With one out, Turner lashed a 100 mile-an-hour fastball over Nimmo’s head, near the spot where the eight-foot wall angles toward the correct field corner. Nimmo had little time to evaluate his surroundings.
“I knew it was hit well off the bat, so my concern was just getting back to the fence as quick as I could,” he said.
“Nevertheless it was hit on a line so I didn’t have a likelihood to look back on the wall. Fortunately from playing on the market rather a lot now, I type of had a sense I used to be near the wall and I needed to go ahead and jump. So the timing was right on it and every part worked out just perfectly. Jumped up, felt the ball hit my glove and I knew it didn’t bounce out once it got in there. After which all of the emotion spilled out.”
Nimmo bounded back to the sector, smiling and shouting (“Let’s go!”), clutching the ball in his bare hand to point out the gang. DeGrom, often so stoic on the mound, raised each arms in celebration and doffed his cap to Nimmo.
“That was what saved the sport there,” right fielder Starling Marte — who drove in Nimmo with a two-run homer off Tyler Anderson within the third inning — said through a translator. “That was an amazing catch. Just the emotion he had there, it motivates me to go on the market and play with that level of emotion.”
With a narrow lead over Atlanta within the N.L. East — just three games after the Braves’ 3-2 victory over Colorado on Wednesday — the Mets will take all the additional motivation they’ll get. Yet the impact of any victory is fleeting, and the Mets face the imposing Clayton Kershaw on Thursday afternoon.
“I want to start out toning down just a little bit,” Nimmo said. “Otherwise, I won’t go to sleep til 6 a.m.”
By closing August in style, the Mets pulled even of their season series with the Dodgers, three games apiece. Thursday’s matinee will not be a real Game 7, after all, but let’s raise a trumpet for the opportunity of an October rematch with a pennant at stake.
“I can’t wait for Díaz to play this at a World Series victory,” Timmy Trumpet said before the series. “I’ll be there for that one.”