The Mets and Giants Just Played the Game of the Year (So Far)

© John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not you’ve seen it, you likely know the premise of Freaky Friday. A mother and her daughter switch bodies in a great cosmic mixup, and hijinks ensue. Hello! Welcome to FanGraphs. I’m Ben Clemens, and today we’ll be covering classic teen cinema of the early 2000s (and mid-1970s), as personified by last night’s Giants-Mets game.

Tuesday night could have been just another day at the (beautiful, well-appointed) office for the Mets and Giants. After a comfortable win by New York in Monday’s series opener, the Giants returned the favor early in last night’s game. Chris Bassitt, the steadiest starter in a rotation buffeted by injuries, had his worst start of the year, surrendering eight earned runs in only 4.1 innings thanks to three homers, two by Joc Pederson. Logan Webb, meanwhile, cruised through five innings (six strikeouts, one walk, two runs), turning what was billed as a pitching duel into an 8-2 rout.

Teams don’t come back from six-run deficits. When Pederson launched his second homer, a two-run shot that pushed the score to 8-2, the Giants’ win expectancy climbed to 98.2%. Tune into 50 games, and you might see the trailing team pull one out. The Mets behaved accordingly; they brought in Stephen Nogosek, the last reliever in their bullpen, to eat some innings.

That’s the way the game could have ended – but let’s get back to Freaky Friday. In 2021, the Giants won these games, whichever side of the 8-2 score they were on. They were both excellent and a team of destiny, and you have to win plenty of tough ones to end the regular season with 107 wins.

So far this season, the Mets have body-switched that early-and-often winning aura from the Giants. Their 29 wins coming into the night were tied for the most in baseball. They score a ton of runs, manufacture pitching despite injuries to their top two starters, and top it all off with a rejuvenated Edwin Díaz as closer. Sure, they don’t have the Giants’ propensity for turning journeymen into stars, but for the first time in years, the Mets feel like a team of destiny.

Gabe Kapler didn’t take it easy on them. The back of his bullpen was gassed thanks to mop up duty in the past two losses, so he used Jarlín García and Dominic Leone, two of his trusted middle-inning relievers, to protect the lead. They needed work, the Giants needed a win, and the Mets offense is dangerous; it just made sense.

García pitched a scoreless sixth, which brings us to the seventh inning, where things started to get downright fun. Leone was in to protect that six-run lead, a situation that I’m sure every pitcher secretly dreads. Do your job? No one will remember. Goof it up? You’ll be the top story in the local sports pages the next day.

Leone split the difference, surrendering a two-run shot to Francisco Lindor before getting out of the inning. One silver lining of being up six runs: no one will remember if you give up a two-run homer as long as the game works out okay. Sure, there’s no glory, but there’s not going to be much blame, either. That cushion softens any blow, so long as you don’t give the entire lead up.

Speaking of giving the entire lead up: after the Giants came up empty in the bottom of the seventh, the game suddenly turned into a shootout. Tyler Rogers, one of Kapler’s most trusted relievers, came in, and then the BABIP started. It was line drive single:

After line drive single:

After smashed grounder:

After well-placed grounder:

And after a fielder’s choice and an infield single, Lindor put a capper on it with a “triple” that doubled as a slip-and-slide instructional video:

Goodness gracious, these 2022 Mets! They’d had a less than 2% chance to win only a few innings earlier – only 3% to win even after Lindor cut the lead to 8-4 in the previous inning – and they ended the top of the eighth with a three-run lead, a margin that almost always holds up that late in the game.

That half-inning alone would have been one of the most dramatic of the year, but the whole inning was even better! The Giants weren’t done yet. After two quick outs, they strung together a hit and a walk, and naturally Pederson was due up next. He more than atoned for his outfield adventures:

Yeah, Joc can hit fastballs. A game that had been 8-2 and well in hand was suddenly 11-11. By total change in win probability, it was the most eventful inning of the year. That’s hard to do for any inning that isn’t the last one of the game – those probabilities can swing all the way to 100% or 0% at the end, while this one ended at 50%. But there was just so much action – a seven-run rally, even more Mets hits after it, and then a tying home run – that this eighth inning of Mets-Giants is alone in first place.

Second place? The 10th inning of Sunday’s Phillies-Dodgers game. Third place? The ninth inning of – hey, the ninth inning of this game! Spoilers! So let’s digress from our ranking of wildest innings and, well, talk about another wild inning.

The Mets had just gone from cooked to living large to locked in a struggle for their lives. How did they respond? With an absolutely crushed leadoff triple that would have been a home run anywhere other than San Francisco:

After a sacrifice fly drove Dominic Smith home, the Mets were looking good again. Per our win probability numbers, they were 83% likely to hold on. Of course they were going to pull it out. They swapped bodies with the Giants, remember? The Giants were the kings of these games last year. You counted them out, they came back, and even if the going got tougher, they made it work in the end.

What’s more, the Mets had Díaz, one of the most imposing closers in the game, on the mound. He came into the game with a 2.00 ERA and a 48% strikeout rate. In the classic hero’s tale, he’s the fire-breathing dragon that the hero has to face down – but the dragon usually wins in this world.

Naturally, the Giants were too much for him. Three of the first four batters of the inning reached base. The Mets turned a double play in there, though, which set up the most dramatic confrontation imaginable: Díaz against the personification of home runs, Joc Pederson, with the game on the line.

The game’s already happened, so I’ll spare you the suspense: Joc was up to the challenge. Díaz hung a slider and Pederson laced it to center for a game-tying single. Díaz was lucky the game didn’t end right there; if the ball had been elevated, it was probably leaving the yard, at 108 mph off the bat.

Of course, the game promptly ended three pitches later anyway:

See, at the end of Freaky Friday, the mother and daughter switch back. The indefatigable Giants, who rise to the occasion and win games you didn’t expect them to pull out? They’re still here. The Mets? They still Mets it up sometimes, though they really do look much-improved from last year, and still the class of the NL East. Sometimes you just lose – particularly to a good team, which the Giants assuredly are.

How bonkers was the end to this game? I might have undersold it. That’s the most total change in win probability in the eighth and ninth innings of a single game in our entire database, which goes back to 1974. 1974! You could watch baseball for 40 years and not see another game like this. Or it could happen tomorrow, or today – that’s how probability works. The Mets and Giants are playing again tonight – I know I’ll be tuning in.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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1 month ago

Can we start with this question: how on God’s green earth is Kevin Padlo this bad defensively? I have to wonder how many of those 7 runs wouldn’t have scored with a different (read: competent) 3B?

1 month ago
Reply to  natedub

None of Padlo’s plays in the 7th were easy. The first was hit very hard, the second was a high chopper with a very fast runner, and the third took something of a bad bounce. In terms of degree of difficulty, I’d say the second would have taken an outstanding play, the third was possible but not easy, and the first would have been a good play but it would hard to call it an error.