Chicago Cubs outfielder Michael Hermosillo briefly found himself in a waking nightmare during the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s Cubs-Mets game. You’ve probably had one like this before—out of nowhere a guy is like “Where’ve you been? You’re fighting for the title tonight!” and then before you can say anything you’re being pushed toward a boxing ring. Anyway, this time it was “Get over here! You’ve gotta face Jacob deGrom! And you’re starting with an 0-2 count!”
Hermosillo didn’t make the pregame lineup card in this eventual Cubs victory. In fact, the 27-year-old fringe major leaguer has barely played at all this year, as he’s struggled with both a long-term quad injury and the fact that, when he has been at the plate, he’s only gone 3-for-34. But he was called into action when the starting center fielder and No. 5 hitter Rafael Ortega fractured his finger trying to bunt a 98 mph pitch from the Mets’ starter, deGrom, with runners on first and second and nobody out. After what looked like maybe a bit of a struggle to actually find Hermosillo, he stepped completely cold out of the dugout and into an impossible task, trying to solve one of the most terrifying pitchers in baseball with no margin for error whatsoever.
What do you think happened next? I’ll give you until after this picture of Mr. and Mrs. Met to try and guess. But if you didn’t see the game, I will guarantee you won’t get it.
You needed to guess all three of these parts to be correct:
- Hermosillo squares around on the first pitch and pulls off a beautiful sacrifice bunt;
- The throw from catcher James McCann bonks Hermosillo on the helmet, preventing Pete Alonso from catching it at first for the out;
- Video evidence shows that Hermosillo was clearly running to the left of the foul line, and therefore should be out for interfering with the throw, but this isn’t a reviewable play, so he’s safe at first.
Here’s the entire sequence, starting with the Ortega injury, if you don’t believe me:
The Cubs would go on to score two runs in this inning, first on a sac fly and then, ridiculously enough, on another bunt. I guess with a 59-82 record, you’re allowed to try and win a game exclusively with bunts.
The Mets, in dropping this contest 4-1 while Atlanta won out in San Francisco, saw their lead in the NL East shrink to just half a game. In the interest of reporting the complete story, I must say that after weeks and weeks where New York looked to be in the throes of an unstoppably magical season, where every potential setback was almost immediately erased by a new high, the excitement surrounding the Mets has dimmed just a bit. Injuries to crucial components Starling Marte and Max Scherzer have slowed the momentum, and in a stretch where New York is playing nothing but easy opponents, the wins aren’t coming as often as they might have earlier. In meetings with the Nationals, Pirates, Marlins, and Cubs, the Mets have gone just 5-6.
With some kind of playoff spot all but locked in, that’s no reason to panic, but the edge that comes with getting a first-round bye, winning the division for the first time since 2015, and proving regular-season superiority over the defending champs is hanging in the balance. That Jacob deGrom, of all people, couldn’t even secure a win against a Cubs lineup that refused to swing the bat is yet another development, at least for a scared pessimist, that the jenga blocks are getting pulled out faster and faster and the tower growing ever more rickety.
Or maybe this was just one stupid little bunt in one stupid little game. Who’s to say?