Amazin’ Ten of 2012: #6 – April 26


As the Winter Meetings get underway from the fabulous Opryland in Nashville, it’s hard for Mets fans not to look back at the same time last year when one team was buying up just about every high-priced free agent on the market. Fittingly, our Amazin’ Ten countdown recounts the early season thriller when the New Yorkers completely owned that spurious group of shopping spree-ers (nice alliteration, eh?).

#6 – Turner Walks, Nieuwenhuis Walks Off (April 26)

Apr. 26, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9) hits a game-winning RBI single during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mets won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Jose Reyes’s return to Citi Field was going about as well as it could…for his former team. The Mets had already clinched the series over the Miami Marlins with 2-1 and 5-1 wins, and the day before David Wright became the franchise’s all-time RBI leader. Reyes, on the other hand, was 1-8 in the previous two games and befuddled by the fans’ somewhat negative reaction to his homecoming. But the real befuddling was still to occur.

The home team got on the board almost immediately off Ricky Nolasco, as Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off with a triple and came home on Ruben Tejada’s sacrifice fly. Wright laced a double with two outs in the inning, but it would come to nothing as Lucas Duda grounded out.

And that was about it for the next seven innings: Jonathon Niese pitched turned in a Solid Seven, allowing just two runs over four hits. But Gaby Sanchez’s solo home run in the 3rd and run-scoring double play in the 5th looked like it would provide the difference. After that first inning, New York could not solve the mystery of Nolasco, and Miami was in prime position to leave town with a big win.

That is, if they could survive their closer. Heath Bell had already blown two saves in the first month of 2012, and now he was returning to the site where, as a Padre, he helped produce the most Amazin’ game of 2011. Suffice it to say, Bell remembered that meltdown. David Wright led off with a six-pitch walk, and Lucas Duda took seven pitches to groundout and advance Wright to second. Ike Davis walked on four pitches and Josh Thole drew a free pass on six more pitches.

At this point Bell had already thrown 23 pitches, far more than any closer should. But with two outs to go and runners everywhere the Marlins had to stick with the guy they signed for $27 million over three years. Enter Justin Turner for the Mets, who made Mr. Bell earn every one of those dollars in one at-bat.

Called strike. Foul. Foul. Ball one. Foul. Ball two. Foul. Ball three. Foul. Foul. Foul. Foul. A dozen pitches in one turn at the plate. And on the baker’s dozen, Turner watched as a fastball sailed wide of the plate. The epic 13-pitch plate appearance may be the toughest RBI Justin will ever earn for New York, but it counts just the same as all the others, and the Mets had come back from the dead to tie it, 2-2.

Apr. 26, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis (9) celebrates with right fielder Scott Hairston (12) after hitting the game-winning RBI single during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mets won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Hairston was up next with a chance to be the hero, and while his groundball failed to get the runner home, he made Bell spend eight more pitches to get him. Heath’s pitch count was up to 44, but there was still work to be done, and one more chance for the home team. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was up next, and on Bell’s 46th pitch of the afternoon, he sent one skyrocketing to the corner in right field that landed well out of reach of Giancarlo Stanton’s half-outstretched arm. It was New York’s only hit off of Bell, but it was all they needed: Thole came home and the Mets won it(!) 3-2, bringing those of the 20,660 who stayed to brave the steady rain to their feet in joy. Nieuwenhuis was the hero of the day after a 3-5 performance and earned his face the team’s second whipped cream pie of the year.

New York could have lost the majority of the games to Miami the rest of the year (they didn’t) and it still would’ve been all right. They had swept Jose Reyes’s new team at home and held their former sparkplug to a 1-12 performance. The good times wouldn’t last, of course, for either team: Nieuwenhuis’s season went downhill in a hurry and Bell would find himself on the other side of the country. But while the Mets would bottom out in mid-July, the Marlins did so a whole month earlier. Both teams finished at the bottom of the NL East, but while New York’s fourth place finish was unfortunately expected, Miami’s appearance in the cellar was far from expected after a Winter Meetings rebranding in December. A rebranding that was shipped in full-form to Toronto a couple weeks ago. Take solace, Mets fans: at least we’re not the Marlins.

April 26: the sixth most Amazin’ game of 2012. We’re halfway through our countdown, and at the end of the week, after all this Winter Meeting madness, we’ll start getting serious with #5.

Amazin’ Ten of 2012

#10 – Slugfest at Wrigley (June 27)

#9 – Niese Caps a Magical Weekend (June 3)

#8 – The Real Johan Returns (May 26)

#7 – Wright Rings the Phillies’ Bell (July 5)

#6 – Turner Walks, Nieuwenhuis Walks Off (April 26)

#5 –

#4 –

#3 –

#2 –

#1 –

You can follow me on Twitter @MidwesternMet and at my own Mets blog of the same name. Thanks for reading, have a nice day, and L.G.M!