NEW YORK — On Keith Hernandez Day of all days, the Mets showed the Marlins exactly what happens when you don’t have good fundies.
A series of miscues in Miami allowed New York to steal a 5-4 win in 10 innings on Saturday, about five hours after the Mets stole Hernandez’s No. 17 at Citi Field had officially retired. Known as one of the most defensive first basemen in major league history, Hernandez often comments on the fundamentals — “fundies,” as he likes to call them — on SNY broadcasts.
On Saturday, the Mets embodied Hernandez’s mantra, winning a game to a walk-off error with two outs in extra innings for the first time since World Series Game 6 in 1986.
“I leave it to everyone else to draw the correlations,” said manager Buck Showalter. “Some of the things that just keep going, you just say, ‘Really?’ We joke about the baseball gods, but sometimes I don’t know.”
The Mets ran into significant trouble at the top of 10th when the Marlins immediately took the lead when a throwing error by shortstop Francisco Lindor on an infield single by Jon Berti allowed the automatic runner to score from second base . But Tomás Nido then got Berti off second base and threw a throw over the diamond, even though he knew the odds of it being an out were slim. Although Nido’s shot was too late, Lindor caught Berti, who lost his balance and fell off the bag.
“The minors teach us to always throw the ball,” said Nido. “You never know what might happen on the other end.”
Fundies, indeed. After Colin Holderman got out of that inning with ease, the Mets struck twice in a row to open the bottom of the 10th. Then came the chaos. With two outs, Nido hit a soft ground ball down the third baseline, where it slipped under Brian Anderson’s glove to give automatic runner Mark Canha the goal.
“It’s on me,” Anderson said. “I should have tried to get dirty and tried to keep the ball infield and saved a run there.”
The next batter, Brandon Nimmo, tapped a tapper back to the mound. Nimmo – long the modern embodiment of Flushing’s fundamental game – was already sprinting hard out of the box and only increased his effort when he saw pitcher Tanner Scott wobble the ball. He achieved an elite sprint speed of 29.9 feet per second as he approached first base.
Desperate, Scott threw the ball away, giving Nido an easy path home with the walk-off run.
“I usually run hard for first place, so I didn’t really have to do anything differently,” said Nimmo. “[I] Yes, really [tried] To push and run as fast as possible, maybe just to get the best out of the situation there.
As the Mets poured out of their dugout to swarm around Nimmo, Hernandez’s audible sighs and groans could be heard almost from afar. An 11-time Gold Glover, Hernandez prided himself on his ability not only to execute the fundamentals of his position but also to capitalize on other teams’ mistakes. The Mets of 2022 often appear to be modeled after him, grabbing extra bases and making clubs pay for their mistakes. On Saturday, first baseman Pete Alonso even literally appeared in Hernandez’s picture on the field, wearing 1980s-style stirrups and sporting a mustache for the game.
“I’m pretty aware of what he means,” said Alonso, who homed in the fourth for the Mets’ first heat. “He means so much to this organization, especially for former players. He’s just super anchored as one of those guys. If you think of Mets greats from the past, No. 17 is obviously ringing.”
Afterward, Showalter laughed at the random nature of the situation — that the Mets not only won a war of fundamentals on Hernandez Day, but also tied the game on a small reel at the (third) baseline. He joked that he would allow members of the media to use their own words to draw the parallels, which didn’t seem that difficult that day. At least part of New York’s fundamental success can be credited to Showalter, who preached the commonplace in a way previous managers didn’t. Lindor, who also made homers, called it “Buck’s mentality”.
Of course, it was Hernandez’s mentality first that Showalter recognizes well. This spring, he made it his mission to welcome Hernandez to the batting cage during BP, as he felt it was important for his players to interact more often with one of the franchise’s all-time greats. Hernandez retaliated during his pregame speech on Saturday, calling the 2022 Mets one of the most notable teams in recent franchise memory.
“You wanted to back him up and say this is a team to be reckoned with,” said Nimmo. “We definitely wanted to try to pull this one out.”