Patrick Mazeika did not start the game. He sat on the bench and bided his time. As the third-string catcher for the New York Mets, he's done a lot of watching. But then, somehow, it was his time to shine. The Baltimore Orioles led the game 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth. The Mets' odds were not looking good. They had the bottom of the lineup coming to the plate, and a little bit of hope named Patrick Mazeika.
By the time he was called on to pinch-hit in the pitcher's spot there were men on second and third, and one out. Mazeika with his scraggly beard and glasses stood in the box. On a 2-2 count he swung, a lurching, off-balance swing that made contact and pulled the ball all the way to the right. There was no nice crisp snap off the bat. A routine grounder. But there was the runner charging down the third base line. The throw from the first baseman was high, too high, and the runner slid on his belly under the catcher's swipe.
Mazeika's teammates ran to him. His uniform came off somehow? He was the King. He was the winner. He had "gotten the job done," as he said in the postgame interview. Who needs hits when you can have RBIs? Not Patrick Mazeika, that's for sure.
Last night, Mazeika cemented his status as one of baseball's more charming historical oddities. The 27-year-old career minor-leaguer how has four career plate appearances with the Mets. Those appearances have produced zero hits, one walk, and three RBIs. One of those RBIs came on a bases-loaded walk, and the other two came on a game-winning fielder's choice.
That's right: Last night was not even the first time in the last week that Mazeika had won a game for the Mets by just kind of weakly slapping the ball into play. Here's his walk-off on May 7 came on an even dinkier, slower grounder up the first-base line. Almost a bunt!
Again, there is a play at the plate, and again, the opposing team (in this case the Arizona Diamondbacks) fumble the ball. Mazeika has now won two games by following the advice my dad used to give me in little league: Make them make a hard play to get you out! Make them work for it!
There aren't a lot of nail-biters in May. The games feel languid and loose. The standings barely matter. In October, we won't remember May. It will all blur together into one big green field. But every once in awhile, something rises. And here it is. Patrick Mazeika, with his insane stat line and his teammates mobbing him on the field like he's the biggest hero in the league. Hits are for suckers.