True Mets lineup sweeps Marlins
Justin Turner, drafted by the Reds, was unable to close out the Marlins. Neither could Scott Hairston, a product of the Diamondbacks' farm system.
On the same afternoon the Mets used a completely homegrown starting lineup for the first time in 41 years, it was only right that the finishing blow be delivered by one of their very own prospects. So with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday and the score tied after Turner's 13-pitch RBI walk, Kirk Nieuwenhuis torched Heath Bell for a walk-off RBI single that gave the Mets a 3-2 victory over the Marlins and a three-game sweep at Citi Field.
Bell, a Mets product himself before he was dealt to the Padres in 2006, suffered through a 46-pitch ninth. Clinging to a 2-1 lead, he walked the bases loaded and, with one out, surrendered the tying run by losing a battle of wills with Turner.
"I missed a lot of good pitches there," Turner said. "I probably could have had a base hit. But I also could have grounded into a double play and ended the game."
Turner fouled off seven two-strike pitches before earning a tying walk, the second time in three days that the Marlins issued four walks in one inning. On Tuesday, four Miami pitchers set a major-league record with one each in the seventh.
"You don't see guys at this level get walked that much," Terry Collins said. "I've never seen anything like that before."
By the end of Turner's at-bat, Bell already had thrown 36 pitches, and Hairston worked him for another eight before grounding into a forceout at the plate. That brought up Nieuwenhuis, a third-round pick by the Mets from the 2008 draft. He took the first pitch for a ball and then ripped the second over the head of rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Game over.
It was the Mets' fourth walk-off win this season. After Nieuwenhuis rounded first base, he was mobbed by his teammates. Way back in the first inning, it was Nieuwenhuis who set up the Mets' first run with a leadoff triple before Ruben Tejada's sacrifice fly.
"For sure," Nieuwenhuis said, "any time you have that many players from one farm system, it's pretty cool."
What made the win that much sweeter was the fact that it came against the Marlins, who dropped to 7-11 despite their $191-million offseason makeover. If Mets general manager Sandy Alderson needed any vindication for his aversion to signing big-money free agents, Miami provided Exhibits A, B and C in Bell, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes.
Not only was Reyes booed mercilessly during his three-day homecoming, he looked rattled. He went 0-for-4 Thursday and finished 1-for-12 in the series, a performance that dropped his batting average to .205 and on-base percentage to .262.
"Jose Reyes is a human being -- he's one of the nicest people I've ever been around," Collins said. "If it didn't bother him, I'd be shocked, because he gave his heart and soul to the people here. To let one little incident happen the last year, on the last day, to spoil his seven years here, I hope that's not true."
Collins was talking about Reyes pulling himself out of his final game as a Met after bunting for a hit in his first at-bat to preserve his batting title, the first for the franchise. And in some ways, he's still remembered as a homegrown product despite the different uniform.
"I told [COO Jeff Wilpon] he should be very proud to see nine homegrown players out there," Collins said. "When that game started and Jose Reyes was in the batter's box, there were 10. That's a tribute to the player development people."
Minaya was fired after the 2010 season with two years left on his contract. He now works as senior vice president of baseball operations for the Padres.
He probably enjoyed the win, too.