Kirk Nieuwenhuis' home run caps four-run Mets' ninth-innning comeback over Cubs
A day which had been miserable and embarrassing for the Mets Sunday ended joyously with Kirk Nieuwenhuis' walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth and a 4-3 victory over the Cubs at Citi Field.
Nieuwenhuis' no-doubt blast off second-deck facing in rightfield was the icing on a four-run rally that ended with the Home Run Apple up and the Mets' three-game losing streak over.
Nieuwenhuis flung his helmet into the air after rounding third and leaped onto home plate into the arms of his pumped-up teammates. The Mets celebrated as if they had just done something big -- which, considering how lousy they have been of late, is exactly what they did.
"If we can't use this as a spark," manager Terry Collins said, "I don't know what else we can do."
The Mets trailed 3-0 entering the ninth and had three hits. They had allowed two unearned runs in the fifth inning on a play on which they threw the ball away three times.
And that came a day after Jordany Valdespin was charged with an error for throwing the ball away on a routine toss back to the pitcher. David Wright called a players-only meeting after Saturday's game. It took 8 ½ innings to have any effect, apparently.
"I really hate team meetings," Wright told MLB.com. "They're one of my least-favorite things, because it usually means that things aren't going so well. But there's times where it's good to get together and get some things off of my chest."
Had the Mets lost, Collins said: "I know what would have been said, what would have been written. You know what? That's what should have been written."
But Nieuwenhuis sent the scribes back to their typewriters with his fourth hit and first home run of the season in his 32nd big-league at-bat. It earned him a postgame pie in the face courtesy of Justin Turner.
"Apple pie," Nieuwenhuis said. "I could taste it."
The dark day started brightening when Marlon Byrd led off the ninth against deposed Cubs closer Carlos Marmol (2-4) with a second-deck home run to left. The Mets, criticized by their manager for lacking spirit the day before, suddenly had a pulse, and it got stronger when Lucas Duda walked and John Buck singled.
"I'll tell you what," Collins said. "When Marlon hit the home run, there was a huge bolt of energy going through the bench. And then, when Lucas walked, there were guys saying, 'We're going to win the game.' We didn't know how, but I heard somebody say, 'We're going to win this game.' Sure enough, it was true."
Marmol began the ninth because Cubs closer Kevin Gregg had worked four days in a row. Omar Quintanilla sacrificed the runners along before Nieuwenhuis crushed a 1-and-0 fastball to send the Mets to Atlanta for the start of a four-city, 11-game road trip on a high note. "We're going to get on a plane with smiles on our faces," Collins said.
He wasn't smiling earlier. The Cubs were ahead 1-0 in the fifth with runners on first and second and two outs. Alfonso Soriano hit a hot shot to the left of David Wright, who made a terrific diving stop. Wright popped up, and after looking at second, fired high and wide to first. Daniel Murphy retrieved the ball after a quick carom and threw home. That throw was way off, too, to the first-base side as a run scored. The ball traveled to foul territory between home and third base.
Starlin Castro, who started the play on first, attempted to score. Quintanilla picked up the ball and threw past catcher Buck as Castro slid in with the second run.
Soriano reached third as adults in the crowd of 30,256 laughed and then booed. Little Leaguers in the upper deck just shook their heads. Wright and Murphy were charged with errors. The Cubs led 3-0. But the Mets erased all that in the ninth.
"We needed something," Byrd said. They got it.