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Mets, Dodgers gave us a potential NLCS preview. Brandon Nimmo made it unforgettable

By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer

For about three seconds, Citi Field held its breath.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner — a man who revived a dormant career and made millions by getting his barrel out in front — got his barrel out in front of a 100-mph heater from Jacob deGrom. The ball rocketed off Turner’s bat to deep center field beneath a haze of nervous silence from 41,799 Mets fans.

Almost instantaneously, the crowd turned its attention to center fielder Brandon Nimmo, who at one point in his career was considered a substandard outfield defender. Nimmo raced backward, never breaking stride toward the wall in a perfectly straight line, as if he knew the exact spot Turner’s blast would land. 

“The ball was hit on a line,” Nimmo recounted postgame. “So I didn’t have time to look back at the wall.”

His eyes transfixed on the baseball, Nimmo launched himself skyward upon reaching the warning track, crashing his body full-blast into the padded wall while simultaneously lunging his leather over the edge of the fence. Somehow, someway, the ball landed safely in his outstretched glove, a game-tying home run that suddenly turned into an out. 

Nimmo trampolined off the wall, pumping his fist in wild celebration. Citi Field erupted like a furious volcano.

The catch of the year.

Brandon Nimmo robs Justin Turner of a home run

The Mets maintain a 2-1 lead over the Dodgers after New York center fielder Brandon Nimmo reaches up and robs Justin Turner of a home run.

“I have to start calming down because I have to sleep at some point tonight.” Nimmo half-joked postgame. “But yeah, I’m still really ecstatic about it.”

Nimmo’s miraculous snag was the highlight of a truly unforgettable night in Queens. After Los Angeles took Game 1 of the three-game set on Tuesday, the Mets bounced back on Wednesday in front of a sold-out crowd, downing the Dodgers 2-1.

It had all the makings of a classic regular-season affair, the type of game that has reporters asking about “playoff atmosphere” in postgame interviews. A dominant Jacob deGrom carving up the juggernaut Dodgers lineup and their comically good 90-38 record? Check. A potential playoff preview between the two best teams in the National League on a beautiful late August evening? Check. Timmy Trumpet, author of the Edwin Díaz walk-out banger, in the house to play New York’s closer out to the mound before Díaz shut the door for his 29th save? 

What a weird sentence, but yes that too.

Edwin Díaz enters to a live rendition of “Narco”

Mets closer Edwin Díaz enters the game Wednesday to a live rendition of “Narco,” performed by Timmy Trumpet.

“That definitely had a playoff feel to it,” Nimmo said after the game, hitting the cliché harder than he hit the center-field wall.

The Mets struck first in the bottom of the third against Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson on a two-run blast by Starling Marte. Anderson has been a revelation this season, a former journeyman thriving in his first year with L.A. on a high-wire act, dominating despite middling fastball velocity. But his herky-jerky deception was no match for Marte, who blasted a 1-0 pitch over the fence in right-center field for a go-ahead home run.

Anderson settled in, but deGrom, fully weaponized and at his terrifying best, cut through L.A.’s lineup like microwaved margarine. The two-time Cy Young winner limited the league leaders to just one run in his first seven-inning performance of the year. His only blemish came courtesy of that unstoppable baseballing dynamo Mookie Betts, who capitalized on a rare deGrom mistake to lace a hanging slider deep to right field for a solo shot in the sixth.

But for about three seconds in the top of the seventh inning, it appeared as if deGrom’s dominance would be for naught. Then Brandon Nimmo brought down the house.

Mets skipper Buck Showalter, who has very much seen some things, called it one of the best catches he could remember. The typically stoic deGrom appeared downright flabbergasted on the mound that his center fielder had reeled the ball in and was exceedingly complimentary of his teammate after the game.

Even Nimmo, one of the most mild-mannered and team-oriented Mets, allowed himself a small pat on the back in the postgame scrum. When asked where that grab ranked in his personal collection, Nimmo admitted that it was “probably number one.” 

But on his locker shelf, already proudly displayed, was a baseball from a previous catch, a wonderful running grab against the Marlins in July. Inscribed on that ball, a token from Mets coach Wayne Kirby, are the words “best catch of 2022” and “13% catch probability.” That catch was nice, but it pales in comparison to what Nimmo did on Wednesday night. It seems like a change of decoration is in order.

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It’s understandable that Nimmo would take such great pride in his defensive achievements. Back in 2020, Statcast rated him as a ninth-percentile outfield defender by Outs Above Average. But by improving his sprint speed and route-running, Nimmo has taken a huge step forward in 2022, moving all the way up to the 92nd percentile.

Nimmo’s improvement has been noticed by his teammates — deGrom said as much postgame — and has been one of many factors in New York’s surge toward October. The Mets’ ability to stand toe-to-toe with the consensus Best Team in Baseball — a one-run loss in Game 1, a one-run win in Game 2 — has to be galvanizing. In any given game, this team really can beat anyone, even the mighty Dodgers.

Los Angeles is still the better ballclub, the more likely outfit to hoist trophies come autumn. The true tests will come later: The Braves are still just three back in the division; the Cardinals look dangerous, too. But those are tomorrow problems. On this late summer night in Queens, one that will live on in highlight reels and memories, all anyone cared about was a crack, a bang, a snag for the ages and thousands of joyous roars. 

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ, is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.

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