NEW YORK – With the rain intensifying, pools of water forming near first base, and the tarp unrolled in left field, a group of Mets players argued, emphatically, to hold off the delay and give them a chance to get three outs, just three outs, and secure a two-run victory Thursday night at Citi Field.
Be careful what you rant for.
By the time hometown kid Harrison Bader slipped and skidded on a sloppy track between second and third, his double had tied the game, 4-4, and punctured the Mets’ once water-tight closer Edwin Diaz. Unable to make a compelling argument to keep the game going in worsening conditions – on the field and over it – officials suspended the game. Play will resume Friday at 5:10 p.m. St. Louis time with Carlos Martinez on the mound for the bottom of the ninth. Friday’s scheduled game will follow the conclusion, whenever that is.
“They tell us to play, we play,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We’ll play in the rain. We’ll play on the street. Wherever we need to go, we’ll show up and compete, and that’s what guys did. Nice ninth. And we’ll finish it (Friday).”
The Cardinals’ rally in the ninth muddied what would have been a win for Jacob deGrom, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, but it also kept the Cardinals from sloshing back beneath .500. In the shadow of the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship, the Cardinals have toiled in resolute mediocrity. With the arrival of Flag Day and Saturday’s Blues parade, the Cardinals have the summer stock stage to themselves by Sunday – when this litmus test of a series in Queens will be concluding, weather permitting.
Like the Cardinals, the Mets arrived Thursday right around .500. The winner of the series could take two steps better than .500 while sinking the other team below it. Or, they could split the series, decide nothing, and offer as much clarity as a reflection in standing water.
When the Cardinals players started to split from the ballpark, dressed in street clothes, before fans had been told the game was suspended.
The ninth played out like a haphazard scramble – and that was before Bader’s double. At first the grounds crew marched out, rakes in hand, and attempted to keep the infield viable in the rain to play the bottom of the ninth inning. Andrew Miller, his jersey soaked, had just struck out the side in order in the bottom of the eighth to bring Diaz into the game for the save. The game was delayed long enough to give the grounds crew a chance to patch the field for three more outs, making it only slightly more playable and less slick than ice in Boston in June.
At one point, they unrolled the tarp and started positioning it to be tugged over the infield. The Mets, led by first baseman Pete Alonso, started shouting – arguing they were ready to go, give them a chance. Alonso had his glove tucked in his jersey, giving him a faux tummy and mall-Santa jiggle as he made his case. Shildt said it “wasn’t my position to have a position,” but he wanted to be involved.
The umps waved for the tarp to be rolled up. The grounds crew had such trouble putting the cover back on the tarp that they eventually gave up so Diaz could start the ninth.
Marcell Ozuna drew a leadoff walk. He took second on a groundout. Both he and the Mets infielders moved gingerly through the slosh. With two outs, Kolten Wong lashed a single that scored Ozuna. When Bader pulled a double into left, Wong kept his feet all the way from first, round third, and home as the tying run.
Bader’s third hit of the game came as there weren’t many fans left in the stands, and a good portion of them might have come to see him.
The native of Bronxville, New York, Bader had at least 150 people at the game from his school, Horace Mann in the Bronx. For his first game as a big-leaguer in New York, his mother, father, sister, and two uncles were also there. He treated them to two doubles, a single, two stolen bases, at least two slick plays in center field, and a role in two of the Cardinals’ scoring rallies.
“I didn’t make it a bigger deal than it is for me,” Bader said. “I’ve just got to approach it like it’s another game, which I did. The only difference is I have a few more people in the stands. I had a moment before the game where I said hello and kissed my mother, my parents, and some close family friends on the cheeks, and the second that was done it was game mode.”
In his first career start against the Mets, Jack Flaherty kept pace with ace deGrom but could not hold a lead. Bader doubled, stole third, and scored on Matt Carpenter’s infield single for a 1-0 lead. It didn’t survive the inning as Michael Conforto tagged Flaherty for a two-run homer. Paul DeJong tied the game with a homer in the sixth off deGrom. That tie, too, didn’t survive the inning. The Mets got two runs off Flaherty to chase him from the game after 5 1/3 innings and eight strikeouts.
Five times in 14 starts this season and for the second time on this road trip, Flaherty has been given a lead and misplaced it. Twice in the season’s first month he had 3-0 leads presented him by the offense and both evaporated.
“It’s been frustrating,” Flaherty said. “These guys have done a great job of getting ahead 1-0 and give it right back, give up two. Tie it up. Paulie hits a huge home run. Ties it up, 2-2, and you give it right back. It’s been frustrating so far.”
The Cardinals’ bullpen was impermeable from there. Giovanny Gallegos and Miller struck out the final six batters they faced going into the ninth. The rain had slowed by the time of a 50-minute delay, but the field had been swamped. The Cardinals and Mets will have access to a 26th man for the evening game Friday, Shildt said. Martinez had entered the game so he’ll get the bottom of the ninth to start Friday’s events, the Cardinals revived after the Mets request.