Umpires out of half-step on Brandon Nimmo's 'out' call
The Mets probably got a bad vibe from Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Marlins on the very first play, when Brandon Nimmo led off with a grounder to short and appeared to beat Jon Berti’s throw by nearly a half-step.
Nimmo was called out, manager Buck Showalter made the no-brainer decision to challenge, and after a discussion that lasted 2:54 and felt almost three times that long, the umpires signaled that the out would stand.
That was hard to believe for two reasons. One, the replay clearly showed that Nimmo touched the bag before the ball disappeared into Yuli Gurriel’s glove. And two, the Mets’ review guru, the peerless replay analyst Harrison Friedland, is tops in his field.
Showalter was No. 1 at challenges last season, with an MLB-best success rate of 78.9%, and he credits Friedland whenever the opportunity arises.
Friday should have been another occasion to do so. But on a night when the Mets had only four hits, with the only run coming on Pete Alonso’s ninth-inning homer, they could have used the correct call on what should have been an infield single.
“From the replay that we saw in the stadium, it looked to me and to the crowd as well that I was safe,” Nimmo said.
Who knows what happens then? Could Nimmo’s hustle have changed the course of Jesus Luzardo’s dominant performance? We never got to find out. Instead, the Mets didn’t put a runner in scoring position until the sixth, when Alonso’s grand slam bid off Marlins reliever JT Chargois died 370 feet from the plate in deep center.
“We would have had a chance to get two overturned,” Showalter said of the questionable verdict on the Nimmo play, which prevented him from challenging another obvious (missed) call on a pickoff attempt in the third inning. “I know Harrison’s frustrated.”
It was that kind of night, and Game No. 2 of the regular season sped by so quickly, at a lightning-quick 2:09, that the Mets’ first loss was like a blur. Maybe that will make it easily forgotten, too.
Sure the pitch clock was a huge factor, as it was on Opening Day, when the average time of game throughout the league was 2:45, a significant drop from 3:11 the previous year.
But with Luzardo pumping 99-mph fastballs, he dispatched the Mets’ lineup at a brisk pace, and David Peterson — who won the No. 5 spot as the injured Jose Quintana’s replacement — did a great job matching him through five innings. The stingy Peterson allowed eight hits but only one run, helped by some stellar defense, and pitched well enough to win if he hadn’t been matched up against Luzardo.
“He executed a ton of his pitches and didn’t really give us that much to hit in the zone,” Alonso said. “He was executing on the corners and he did a really good job of throwing chase pitches that looked like drive-able ones. When he needed to get a quick contact out, he was able to do so. He had everything working. It was a tough night to hit.”
All three runs were the result of homers; the Marlins just belted one more. Jorge Soler took Peterson deep leading off the second inning and Jazz Chisholm Jr. — who’s been an adventure in centerfield the past two games — pulled a 411-foot blast off John Curtiss with one out in the eighth.
Otherwise, the Mets kept it close with some defensive gems. Francisco Lindor made a nice leaping grab to take away a hit in the third inning. Nimmo had a nifty sliding catch of a sinking liner in the fourth. But the highlight was Jeff McNeil’s run-saving scoop and throw home from way back on the infield dirt.
The Marlins had runners at first and second with one out in the fifth when Garrett Cooper smacked a grounder that Alonso could only deflect as he ranged far to his right. Fortunately for the Mets, the heads-up McNeil was deep behind him, and he got off a perfect one-hop throw to the plate that nabbed Berti to keep the score at 1-0.
“That was sick,” Alonso said. “A sick play. For him to have the amount of baseball instincts and pick the ball up and make that play, that was excellent. That was huge for us. If that run scores, that’s when the merry-go-round starts.”
It never turned into that sort of night on the basepaths, and in a blink, this one was over. As stunning as that 2:09 is, it could have been under two hours if the Mets’ challenge had been handled in a more prompt fashion. Or if the correct call had been made from the jump. Knowing Showalter, that’s probably what bothered him the most afterward. He was griping about the game starting four minutes late to begin with, wondering aloud if the Marlins should have been charged with a balk for that.
Still, this Peterson start would have been a good one to steal, with the shaky Tylor Megill rushed from Syracuse to replace Justin Verlander for Saturday night, followed by Kodai Senga’s debut in Sunday’s finale. And it seemed to be there for the taking. Briefly.