Science To Acknowledge The Clutch Gene

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets

When this game began I expected that I would blog about Jacob deGrom’s stellar outing (he was better than I imagined), Hyun-Jin Ryu’s response (the Mets picked a great night to make him int0 Steve Carlton again), and inevitably some dumb move that Handsome Art Howe made (we’ll get to that).

I did not expect to type the name Rajai Davis. But I’m glad that’s the case.

The Mets were in a tricky spot in the eighth. deGrom was out of the game and Seth Lugo had just finished a 13 pitch/nine strike eighth inning where he struck out the side. I’m sure the Mets wanted to get a quick run and send it to the 8th where Lugo could finish it. So Adam Kolarek strikes out Robinson Cano to lead off the bottom of the eighth and the fun begins.

Joe Kelly comes into the game and hits Todd Frazier in the hand. Then Handsome Art made the decision to stuck with Juan Lagares instead of pinch hitting with Michael Conforto. Again, the Mets need runs badly and there’s a righty on the mound. But two things that went against that line of thinking and believe it or not I think I understand:

  • Julio Urias was waiting in the wings … and came in one batter later anyway. Handsome Art probably didn’t like that matchup, and I think I get it. Also …
  • With Frazier’s hand hurting (Sam Haggerty would pinch run for him either because of that or because he was at second and was the go-ahead run), HAH might have wanted to keep Lagares in the game because he knew eventually he’d have to replace Frazier, so Conforto goes into RF and McNeil moves to 3B, which is better than having Guillorme or Haggerty play the field and get at-bats in a longer game.

So Lagares strikes out and we’re all wondering and second guessing. But meanwhile, Urias comes in and hits Brandon Nimmo, Haggerty comes in to pinch run, and then Urias walks Amed Rosario to set up the pinch hitter for Lugo, which was Rajai Davis.

Science To Acknowledge The Clutch Gene
Sep 14, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets pinch hitter Rajai Davis (18) hits a three run double against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the eighth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Davis’ stats aren’t pretty, but he’s a guy who I never have a problem with batting in a big spot against a lefty … not after taking Aroldis Chapman deep to tie Game 7 of the freakin’ World Series. For the Mets in 2019, there was no bigger spot than that moment for the Mets. The Cubs had won, the game was tied, and not only was Davis pinch hitting with two outs and the bases loaded, he was pinch hitting for Lugo which meant that even in the best case scenario, you weren’t going to have Lugo in the game anymore. So striking out, popping out, grounding out … simply not an option.

It defies logic because when you look at Davis’ career stats in terms of high leverage, two outs with RISP, late and close … they’re not great. But when I see him up there I just keep thinking bat to that one at-bat, which is an incredibly small sample size and think that he’s earned the gold card when it comes to the benefit of the doubt. Since that hit, Davis hit .313 in high leverage spots in 2017, and in 2018 his high leverage batting average was …

Okay, so it was .143 … so no, I really don’t have stats to back this up. But Davis against a lefty doesn’t make me cringe like it would if Chapman never happened. It didn’t make anybody cringe tonight as he smacked a three run double off Urias to give the Mets a 3-0 lead, enough breathing room for Justin Wilson to come out and get the save for the Mets’ first win at Citi Field against Los Angeles since David Wright’s final non-ceremonial game.

All I know is that it was as huge as huge gets for the Mets, who simply could not drop to four games back of the Cubs with 14 to play. To muscle up in a victory against the Dodgers was incredible, and will keep the good vibes going into Sunday night, another game the Mets absolutely have to have. Because I don’t think we can count on the Pirates to be competitive much less win against the Cubs on Sunday after losing by scores of 17-8 and 14-1. This is a team having fights over clubhouse music so they may not win another game the rest of the year.

Davis was clutch. He has a clutch gene. I’m going with that.

Today’s Hate List

  1. Kyle Crick
  2. Felipe Vazquez
  3. Clay Holmes
  4. James Marvel
  5. Barry Bonds
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