The meaning of Juan Lagares’ catch on Wednesday…
It’s difficult to put into words what Juan Lagares did in the seventh inning.
The catch itself is indescribable. It is beyond most realms of rational thought and possibility.
Just ask Lagares.
“I have no idea how I made that catch,” Lagares explained to reporters after last night’s win. “That was the hardest one I made so far. Like I always say, I just go hard to the ball and try to get it.”
Nor does anyone else. I wonder if Willie Mays saw the catch, and what he thought of it?
The thing is, the catch has more meaning than simply being a web gem, or his best catch ever, or a picture that can splatter the back pages of the New York newspapers.
That catch might have been the difference between a win and loss, and that’s ultimately what mattered the most.
With the Mets trailing 2-1 in the seventh, Jace Peterson hit a long flyball to center field. Even an above average center fielder would have had this ball go over his head, and Peterson might have ended up on third base with nobody out, threatening to extend the lead to 3-1 for Atlanta.
Thankfully, the Mets have Lagares out there, who if he was above average, would be terrible in comparison.
Somehow, Lagares made the catch, saved a base runner, possibly a run, and undoubtedly changed the momentum in an otherwise flat evening for the Mets.
Instead, one out, nobody on. Big difference between that and a runner at third, nobody out.
“That catch was unbelievable,” Mets starter Dillon Gee said, “and I’m lucky enough I actually get paid to watch him do that on a daily basis.”
With the momentum and the tone of the game suddenly shifted, the Mets tied the game on a Wilmer Flores home run in the bottom half of that inning.
Then, Lagares was right in the middle of things again, only this time with the bat.
After Curtis Granderson walked as a pinch hitter to lead off the inning, Lagares executed a beautiful hit and run, slapping a grounder through the vacated hole on the right side and sending Granderson to third base.
“Tremendous hit-and-run by Juan to get a piece of it and put it in play,” Terry Collins said after the game.
Granderson would later score on a Lucas Duda opposite field single.
The Mets never looked back.
“I was just trying to move Grandy over,” Lagares explained. “The first one I tried to bunt and he threw me a ball and I looked at Tim Teufel and he gave me the hit-and-run and I said, ‘I have to do something to put the ball in play,’ ”
Again, the catch was more than just an amazing moment. It allowed for an opportunity for the Mets to come back and win a game. It once again emphasizes the importance of strong defense, especially up the middle.
He’s also beginning to show signs he can be an equal force with his bat. He got off to a slow start thanks to swinging at way too many pitches outside the zone (over 50 percent through the first week of the season). But, that number has come way down to 34 percent for the year, and he’s making more contact on pitches inside the strike zone. The result is a nine-game hitting streak, a .353 average over that span coupled with a .761 OPS.
All of that is great, but it is his defense which defines his value. Yes, he made a huge difference with his bat yesterday, but if not for his glove, this conversation might not be happening. The funny thing is, when Lagares doesn’t get to a ball, it almost feels unacceptable, which isn’t fair. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen hardly at all. But, he will never be perfect.
But, he’s as close to the perfect centerfielder as one can get.