MIAMI — Whatever happens the rest of the season, the Mets at least have this: The Javier Baez Experience.
They beat the Marlins, 5-3, on Wednesday at the end of an eventful night for their newest star shortstop, who went 2-for-5 with a go-ahead home run, a savvy slide during a critical rally, a leaping catch to save a hit, several violent but unsuccessful swings and just a bit of smack talk.
Thanks to Baez, the club’s marquee trade-deadline addition last week, the Mets (56-51) snapped a three-game losing streak. And they kept the Phillies, victorious again, 1 1/2 games back in the NL East.
"He is the one guy," manager Luis Rojas said, "who can get us going right now."
The biggest moment from Baez, who is hitting .200 with a .738 OPS in five games with the Mets, came in the eighth inning of a tied game. Behind 1-and-2 against Anthony Bass, he went after a slider on the outer edge of the plate and lined it into the first row of seats in rightfield to put the Mets ahead again.
On his trip around the bases, between third and home, he turned toward the Marlins’ dugout, repeatedly snapping together his four fingers and thumb together as if to signal: Keep talking. Baez said he was communicating with fans who had been talking trash in Spanish.
"They were making fun of me," said Baez, who looked angry in the moment. "It’s just fun. Nothing personal."
James Rowson, the Marlins’ fill-in manager, said: "Those guys are competitive . . . Players nowadays go back and forth to each other to some extent, so I'm not sure how much of that is players or to the fans or different things."
Baez made the same hand gesture the night prior, when he was mad about something Miami reliever Richard Bleier said.
"I really don’t know what happened to be honest," Baez said. "I’m not this type of guy, bringing trouble to the field. I felt like he said something to me and didn’t respect me."
The homer was the second of two runs scored by Baez. The other came during a three-run second inning, when the Mets loaded the bases with nobody out and scored all their runners without hitting the ball out of the infield against rookie righthander Zach Thompson (four innings, three runs).
Tomas Nido sent a grounder to first, and Aguilar threw home to try to prevent Baez from scoring. The ball arrived well before Baez, but he used a swim-move slide — withdrawing his leading left hand while reaching with his right hand — to avoid the tag attempt from catcher Alex Jackson. He hopped to his feet with an enthusiastic scream.
"I don’t know where that hand came from," Rojas said. "You got a catcher tagging a runner. With the timing of the play, the throw, the runner probably not even getting to the plate — next thing you know, I see a hand just reaching the plate. He gets up really sure that he wasn’t tagged."
Baez explained, sort of: "I honestly don’t plan it. Just react to it. I just switched my hands. I really don’t know how to explain it. It’s instinct from me."
An abbreviated-by-design outing from Carlos Carrasco (4 1/3 innings, two runs) yielded to a bullpen that was without Edwin Diaz (paternity leave) and Seth Lugo (two innings on Tuesday). Five relievers combined to allow one run in 4 2/3 innings, with Trevor May getting the save.
Baez handled the rest. His night was — and his skill set is — such that even his hulking whiffs were entertaining. He had four of those.
"You’re waiting for something to happen," Rojas said. "Even the swings and misses, everyone in the dugout, you can hear — that energizes everyone. A guy that I call fearless. That’s what Javy is."
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