BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Jim McIssac/Getty Images)
Greatness took place in Flushing on the final night of August 2022 Wednesday night.
Jacob deGrom started for the Mets against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field, and Serena Williams faced No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit in an attempt to finish her great tennis career as the U.S. Open champion across the street from Citi Field. Flushing was buzzing with joy.
Both were victorious on that night. The two-time Cy Young winner allowed a run on three hits and struck out nine in seven innings on 93 pitches in the Mets’ 2-1 victory over the Dodgers, and the 23-time major champion pulled off a 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-2 victory over Kontaveit.
Every win and every appearance for Williams is a celebration in this year’s US Open. She headlines this year’s storyline in what was once a popular event in our town. She deserves this nice sendoff for being the greatest of all time in the sport she plays in, and that even includes men that play the sport. America sports fans should be enjoying her, including our city.
But we are a baseball town. Always will be. We look at tennis as nothing more than a recreational sport and nothing more. Maybe on some other night, Williams overshadows anything a Met or Yankee did. But not on this night.
With the Dodgers in town and deGrom starting, this was all about the Mets. On this night, it took a special player and a special team to overshadow Williams. This sums up the year the Mets are having at 83-48.
Besides, there are so many angles that you can talk about in a baseball game than in a tennis match. On this night, there was plenty to talk about.
Let’s start with the Mets ace. He was his usual brilliant self. He knew everyone was watching because well when he is out there, everyone know they can see greatness in every start. With the Dodgers in town, he knew he had to raise his game after Taijuan Walker came up small by going 5 ⅓ innings that forced Showalter to use his bullpen more than he really wanted to in the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night. The Mets needed a great performance out of him for them to win, and he came through.
We shouldn’t be surprised. This is who he is. We expect him to do this every start to the point if he struggles, it becomes a topic here. He pitched four great starts, including Wednesday night, and two good starts in his six starts since returning from the injured list. Not bad for a starter who took a long time to come back after a shoulder injury.
The Mets needed him to be perfect for them to have a fighting chance to win. Scoring runs would come at a premium against a Dodgers staff that pitches well. There was no margin for error, but deGrom made it look so easy.
His only hiccup was serving up that home run to Mookie Betts in the sixth inning, cutting the Mets’ lead to 2-1. That’s okay in a sense it’s hard to get this Dodgers slugger out. Betts should be a MVP candidate, but in a lineup that features many great players, he won’t get much consideration.
Betts sounded surprised that he pulled it off when asked about his home run off deGrom. He said the Mets ace is maybe the best to ever pitch.
Of course, deGrom needed help from his teammates to win. That what makes baseball is so unique. It’s not a one-man sport like tennis. It takes a village to win in our national pastime. Startling Marte hit a two-run home run in the third inning that gave the Mets a 2-0 lead, and Brandon Nimmo robbed ex-Mets Justin Turner of a home run that could have tied the game in the seventh inning.
Seven strong innings made it easy for Showalter to use his bullpen. He used Adam Ottavino in the eighth, and Ottavino did his job by pitching a scoreless inning.
There are many great moments that took place in this game, but Ottavino striking out Betts should be considered the greatest of all because it’s just so hard to strike him out. Plus, he already homered in this game, and he was capable of doing it again.
This set the stage for the greatest entrance and climax ending of all. Edwin Diaz entered the ninth to save this masterpiece of a game with Timmy Trumpet performing “Narco” live to get the Mets closer ready to go. This is what makes baseball so poetic over tennis. There’s always something special that takes place in a game that you can’t predict or make up. If it only was that easy for a stage like the ninth inning at Citi Field.
The Mets fans had their smartphones out to take pictures of the Mets closer and Timmy singing. They knew something special was in the air. It’s always like this when Diaz pitches, but on this night, it took a bigger meaning of its own.
Diaz was up to the challenge. Of course, he was. He has done this all year. Even when he is not at his best like two weeks ago on a Sunday in Philadelphia, he gets it done.
He overpowered Trea Turner by striking him out on three pitches for the first out. Freddie Freeman and Will Smith grounded out meekly to end the game. It was reminiscent of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera making quick work of the hitters. That’s how great the Mets closer was on this night.
Everyone left Citi Field thinking it was money well spent. So many things happened that can be hard to predict. In tennis, there’s magic and it’s cool to see one player perform it all like Williams, but in baseball, everyone has to play a part.
On this night, the Mets had four players play a part.
This is what makes baseball so special over other sports.
This is why Wednesday was more of the Mets’ night over Serena Williams.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6