How many times has a shortstop thrown the ball away with Kirk Nieuwenhuis sliding into second base on a potential double play? In my head it’s three times. Is that right? Does anyone have a better memory than mine?
It definitely happened last night. Mark Buehrle hit Nieuwenhuis in his jersey, putting him on base for the only time in the game. With one out and Daniel Murphy hitting, Nieuwenhuis actually broke back toward the first-base bag as Buehrle came home, fearing a pickoff. But after Murphy bounced one to the right side, Nieuwenhuis still wound up bearing down on Reyes as he attempted the double-play turn.
Reyes might have misfired with anyone (or no one) sliding in, and Murphy might very well have been safe regardless. And even if it has happened three times, it’s not nearly enough to call it more than a series of coincidences. But it’s the type of thing we like to credit to Nieuwenhuis’ football build and mentality, which are part of what make him a fun player to watch when he’s going well — even if most players are pretty fun to watch when they’re going well.
In any case, whether due to Nieuwenhuis’ balls-out bro-dom or just good luck, the fielder’s choice wound up making a big difference in the game last night. It provided an at-bat for David Wright with Murphy on first. Buehrle left an 0-2 pitch out over the plate and Wright put it on the Party Deck to give the Mets a 2-1 lead that they’d never relinquish.
It was a pretty good symbolic sequence of things going right for the Mets: new-Met Nieuwenhuis gets on, new-Marlin Reyes throws a ball away to possibly keep the inning alive, and Wright hits a home run that would have been a long out last year (and it likely would have been — watch the replay: Emilio Bonifacio had time to slow up for the wall then try to jump for it). And then for added emphasis Lucas Duda smacked a single.
Oh, and R.A. Dickey threw seven strong innings despite the chill.