Kirk Nieuwenhuis has done it again. The rookie center fielder continued to endear himself to Mets fans on Thursday afternoon with a 3 for 5 day, including the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth. With the score tied at 2-2 and the bases loaded, Nieuwenhuis ripped a Heath Bell offering over Giancarlo Stanton’s head in right field to score Josh Thole as the winning run.
New York entered the ninth inning trailing 2-1, but it became clear immediately that Miami closer and former Met Heath Bell did not have his best stuff. What wasn’t clear was what caused Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen to leave Bell in the game while he lost the lead in the slowest manner possible.
Bell walked David Wright, Ike Davis and Josh Thole while showing an inability to locate his curve ball. With the bases loaded and one out, Bell was forced to heave fastball after fastball at pinch hitter Justin Turner. Although Turner was behind almost everything, he stayed alive by fouling off eight pitches in the 13-pitch at-bat to eventually force a walk and tie the game.
Still, Guillen stuck with Bell, and although Scott Hairston grounded into a fielder’s choice, the game was ended right after that by the clutch Nieuwenhuis hit. The Mets have now won three straight games to sweep the Marlins series after a demoralizing doubleheader versus the Giants.
Nieuwenhuis went 3 for 5 in the game and was the only player on either side with multiple hits. He led off the bottom of the first with a triple and came home on a Ruben Tejada sac fly for the only Mets run scored before the fateful ninth inning.
Niewenhuis is now batting .333/.403/.517, but it’s important not to get too jazzed up. He’s still striking out 28.4% of the time, which is right behind the terrible Ike Davis (30.1%) and the not-as-terrible Jason Bay (29.8%). A 9.0% walk rate is not great but not terrible. Those batting numbers are being held up mostly by a ridiculous .462 BABIP.
Before Bell’s implosion, the pitching was pretty great for both sides. Jon Niese struck out six and walked no one while allowing four hits and two runs in seven inning for New York. Half of the damage came on a Gaby Sanchez solo blast in the third inning. The other run scored when Sanchez hit into a double play with runners on the corners in the fifth. Omar Infante continued to kill the Mets by doubling to lead off the frame, and he came around to score.
Meanwhile, Ricky Nolasco shut down the Mets after the first inning. He finished with five strikeouts, one walk and five hits allowed in seven innings. Before leaving the game with 107 pitches thrown, Nolasco had retired 10 straight and the Mets looked to be in dire straights.
Some more numbers
- Ramon Ramirez pitched two solid innings to keep the Mets close while they were struggling on offense. He had two strikeouts and two hits allowed.
- Ike Davis hit a single in addition to his ninth inning walk. Getting on base twice in a game has been a rarity for him, so that’s nice.
- Josh Thole also had a hit and a ninth inning walk to continue his hot April. Thole is now hitting .362/.464/.447 with a .415 BABIP and a 10.3% strikeout rate.
- Jose Reyes went 0 for 4 to finish the series 1 for 12. He’s now hitting .205/.263/.329 with a .231 BABIP.
The Mets now take their talents to Denver to take on the Colorado Rockies. The starters are the youngster Chris Schwinden and the promising youngster Drew Pomeranz. First pitch is at 8:40 PM tonight.