After today’s encouraging bounce-back win over the Marlins, the Mets have the rest of the night off. What better time to introduce a new weekly Rising Apple series?
Welcome to the first edition of “Glory Days,” where I’ll take you through the very best games in the careers of past and present Amazin’s. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite red-headed, pie-slinging “Call Me Maybe” enthusiast: Justin Turner!
Dateline: May 15, 2011. The Mets are wrapping up a weekend series in Houston and looking to take 2 of 3 from the Astros. Due to injuries, Justin Turner is getting another start at second base, hitting in the 7-hole between Daniel Murphy at first base and Jason Pridie in center field. Turner gets his first chance against Houston starter Aneury Rodriguez in the 2nd inning and lines out to shallow right center. The Mets go down 1-2-3.
In the 5th, the Astros have gotten two runs off Chris Capuano and New York looks listless at the plate. But Jason Bay leads off by reaching on an error, and Murphy lines a single into right. Up came Turner, looking to provide a spark. It was in this at-bat when Le Grande Orange Jr. first established himself as a clutch hitter, lacing a hard grounder into left to plate both runs and tie it at 2-2. Two more runs would come home that inning as the Mets would bat around and take a 4-2 lead.
Rodriguez stayed in the game for the Astros in the 6th and quickly allowed a leadoff single to Bay. After Bay moved to second on a pickoff error, Murphy drew a 7-pitch walk. Rodriguez was wounded, and Justin Turner smelled blood. On the first pitch he saw, Turner launched his first career home run to deep left center to knock out the starter and give the Mets a 7-2 stranglehold on the game. The Astros would score two more times before the day was done, but Francisco Rodriguez would nail down a 1-2-3 9th for the save, 7-4 victory, and series win, propelling the Mets further during their May resurgence. Turner’s final line on the day: 2-4, 2B, HR, 5 RBIs.
Le Grande Orange Jr. used Houston as his launching pad for a historic stretch of games – he had an RBI the day before and by the next Saturday will have had an RBI in 7 straight games, breaking a Mets rookie record set by Ron Swoboda back in 1965. Turner finished May as National League Rookie of the Month after hitting .325 with a .836 OPS and 20 RBIs in 20 starts. Justin would have plenty more big hits in 2011, establishing his clutch reputation and clinching him a spot on the 2012 roster, where he would take on perhaps his most important role: replacing Willie Harris as the team’s Pie in the Face guy.
May 15. A good day for Joe DiMaggio in 1941 (began his 56-game hitting streak) and Nolan Ryan in 1973 (threw his first no-hitter with the Angels). Also a good day for King George III of Britain in 1800 (survived an assassination attempt). Not a good day for Henry VIII wife Anne Boleyn in 1538 (condemned to death on treason and adultery charges) or Standard Oil in 1911 (broken up under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act). A great day for Justin Turner in 2011.