Please Be Careful When Celebrating Dingers!
9:00 AM EDT on August 22, 2022
America's team, the New York Mets, scraped out another awesome win on Sunday against the Phillies. The boys had every right to be exhausted heading into this one—they had played a doubleheader on Saturday, got into Philadelphia after a tough four-game series in Atlanta that ended late Thursday night, had enjoyed just one measly off-day since July 28, and now have the Yankees looming on Monday. But even though the Mets could have easily given up multiple times in this game, after a stinky major-league debut for starter José Butto and then a 46-minute rain delay, they kept battling and were rewarded for it. And nobody helped them more than their left fielder, Mark Canha, who contributed a pair of clutch home runs and then celebrated them with, uh, varying results.
Butto was wobbly from his first pitch of the afternoon, and he saw five batters before he was even able to record the first out of his career, which meant the Mets were down 4-0 just an inning in. Butto briefly relaxed to keep things scoreless for his next two frames, and the Mets chipped away until it was 4-4 in the middle of the fourth. Butto then let pass a three-run shot to Alec Bohm to make the score 7-4. But thanks to three unexpectedly scoreless innings from Mets relief pitcher Nate Fisher, a debuting 26-year-old who was working at a bank last year, that's where it stayed through the rain delay and into the top of the seventh.
That's where Canha came to the plate with two on and one out. The 33-year-old, who had spent the last seven years in Oakland, has turned out to be a solid pick-up for the Mets this season, with a .374 OBP that pairs nicely with what appears to be a pretty easygoing locker room presence. But if there's been anything disappointing about his first 100 games in Queens, it's been a relative lack of power. Canha slugged a career-best 26 dingers for the A's in 2019, and he got up to 17 in 141 games last year, but heading into Sunday, he was stuck on just eight, with only two since the beginning of July.
I already told you what came next: Facing Phillies reliever Connor Brogdon, Canha swung at the first pitch he saw, and he took that up-and-in fastball all the way to some Mets fans in the left-field corner. The three-run blast rebooted the game at 7-7.
I would like you to pay special attention to the way Canha celebrates with Pete Alonso after crossing the plate. Their routine is a deceptively intricate series of bops to each other's elbows and midsections. It looks very cool and very rhythmic, but it's not quite the kind of greeting you can do on autopilot. This will be important in a moment.
Jean Segura got a pinch-hit home run for the Phils in the eighth inning, which put the Mets' backs against the wall in the top of the ninth. The Braves had already lost to the Astros by this point in the afternoon, which may have eased some of the pressure off the NL East leaders. But with their division lead a mere three games to start the day, after it was a whole seven games as recently as August 11, this was still a big opportunity to claw back some breathing room. And when Jeff McNeil got to second to start the inning, it was Canha once again who delivered in a big way, unloading on almost the exact same pitch he saw in the seventh to send an even more impressive bomb over the fence for a 9-8 Mets lead.
And check out the bat flip, too! Canha noted after the game that it was his first flip of the year, which made for an especially cathartic walk toward first.
But not every celebration can be so smooth, and Canha ran into a struggle when he touched home and tried to do the Alonso celebration with McNeil. I don't think it's his fault actually. He raises his left elbow, ready to touch McNeil's right, and then his teammate just ... BONK.
Canha, adorably, goes to hug McNeil immediately and shows no sign of pain or annoyance. But you guys need to be more careful out there! This beautiful Mets season feels like it's hanging by a thread. After years of misfortune, stupidity, flops, and general nastiness, New York keeps pulling out big wins and has built up a 79-44 record that, if the pace holds, would be their best regular season since 1986, when they last won a World Series. It's a little hard to accept, and it really does feel like one stroke of bad luck—like, for example, a popular player suffering a broken nose after a big home run—would serve as a wake-up call for the universe to restore the Mets to their old pathetic ways. But on Sunday, yet again, this team found a way to stay on course when so many obstacles threatened to knock them off balance. Everyone can exhale, for now.