Inciarte’s catch preserves Atlanta Braves comeback win

Sep 21, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte (11) scores the tying run in the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte (11) scores the tying run in the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

Atlanta Braves pull off the comeback and complete the sweep… with a lot of help from Ender Inciarte.

I was all set to rail against the Atlanta Braves for playing dull, lifeless baseball for the umpteenth time this year (although in fairness, this has been a very encouraging September), because the first six innings of Wednesday night’s effort against the New York Mets would have certainly qualified.

Then the Braves rallied, the bullpen held and Ender Inciarte made quite possibly the play of the year to preserve a 4-3 victory.

(I don’t speak Spanish, but I think that says, “Ender Inciarte is a Golden God.”)

For six innings, ageless wonder Bartolo Colon kept the Braves off-balance. Sometimes he’d throw slow. Other times, he’d throw so slowly you could time the ball’s arrival at the plate via sun dial. Every so often, he’d reach back for a little extra and scrape 90 mph with his fastball, but whatever he did remained largely untouched by the Braves through six innings.

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Ryan Weber, conversely, was rudely greeted by a loud two-run homer from Asdrubal Cabrera in the Mets first and saw another sinker hang up on him in the fifth that TJ Rivera crushed like grape.

Atlanta had mustered two hits to that point, and added a third in the sixth when Mallex Smith, pinch-hitting for Weber, picked up his second big-league hit since a three-month hiatus. But nothing indicated that anything resembling a rally might be in the offing.

What you can always say about these Atlanta Braves is that they absolutely do not quit. Interim manager Brian Snitker has instilled a never-say-die attitude—which I attribute that to Snitker; they may just be wired that way from man 1-to-25, but Snit’s influence seems more likely—that has more than once led me (and recappers just like me) to shrug, sigh, and start over again after 350 words.

(Atlanta’s bullpen has also contributed to that sort of hasty revision, for entirely different reasons.)

Nick Markakis poked a one-out single through the right side in the seventh, signaling that life remained in our intrepid heroes of the diamond. That brought up a New York Metropolitans cast-off in Anthony Recker, who made the home side pay with a two-run homer that just snuck over the right-center wall to plug the Atlanta Braves back in.

Fast-forward to the bottom of the eighth (although also, kudos to John Gant and Brandon Cunniff for holding it down in relief of Weber). Inciarte reached via James Loney error, advanced to second on a bloop single from Freddie Freeman and wound up on third with a daring double-steal. Matt Kemp lifted a fly ball to Yoenis Cespedes and, against the advice of Bo Porter, millions watching at home and probably the inner voice in Inciarte’s head screaming, “Are you crazy, don’t challenge Cespedes’ arm from medium depth!”, made a mad dash for the plate.

Cespedes’ throw sailed, Inciarte scored and we had a brand new ballgame.

17. Final. 3. 3. 4

Atlanta’s tactics on the base paths must’ve inspired Terry Collins, however. After a Cespedes double (off the heel of Matt “Guys, I’m out here trying my butt off even though I’m not very good defensively and never have been, could we cut me a little slack, please?” Kemp’s glove) and an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson, the Metropolitans pulled off a double-steal of their own. Ian Krol intentionally walked Eric Campbell to load the bases and then… struck out Kevin Plawecki to end the threat.

(Annnnnd… exhale.)

It was enthralling to watch the Mets fall apart in sections. Jeurys Familia, who came on with one out in the eighth, gave up the tying run, then waltzed right back out in the ninth and gave up the go-ahead, allowing a Jace Peterson single, a Dansby Swanson sac bunt and a blooper to a recently-resurrected Emilio Bonifacio to put runners on the corners. Inciarte’s ball in play wasn’t hit hard—in fact, it was a little dribbler to second—but good enough to plate Peterson and give the Braves a chance to sweep.

Jim Johnson marched in for the home half and surrendered a single to Brandon Nimmo and a walk to Travis d’Arnaud, making Braves fans nervous. Those nerves intensified when Cespedes, having already explored the outer reaches of the park earlier in the game, drove a ball deep to right-center… only to see it hauled back into the park by a leaping Inciarte at the last possible moment.

Given the point in the game when it occurred, the degree of difficulty and the opponent, it may have been the best play made by the Atlanta Braves in 2016.

Once again, because that Vine is and will be the truth.

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Fans are in for a real treat Thursday, with the 7:10 p.m. (ET) opener at Marlins Park to pit Josh Collmenter against Jose Urena. We’ll all be gathered ‘round the water cooler to re-hash that one on Friday, I’m sure.