Mets' center fielder battles windy conditions to haul in deep fly from Braves' Peterson
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- His smile said it all. Boyish and blissfully bewildered, it swept over Juan Lagares' face as he looked back toward the infield after robbing the Braves' Jace Peterson of extra bases with a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch Wednesday night at Citi Field.
And there it was again after the game, as Lagares watched the replay for the first time and mimicked the reaction he once again induced from the masses -- an eye roll and a shake of the head.
Lagares, a Gold Glove Award winner in 2014, often turns the sensational into the routine in center field for the Mets. But his acrobatic play in the seventh inning of the Mets' 3-2 win seemed so improbable, at first it had his teammates struggling to describe it.
"Wow, he's good," was hitting coach Kevin Long's reaction in the dugout.
Lagares had to fight the elements to make what is widely regarded as the toughest play for an outfielder -- the line drive hit directly over his head. With heavy winds coming off Flushing Bay as angrily as 26 mph, causing swirling havoc in the outfield, Lagares had to adjust mid-sprint as the line drive sliced to his left. As he hit the warning track, he reached to make a full-extension basket catch. Amazingly, the ball found glove. Then the smile came.
"Juan doing Juan things," Gee said. "I'm lucky enough I actually get paid to watch him do that on a daily basis."
Gee benefits from it as well, and did so again Wednesday. Lagares' catch prevented the leadoff man from getting into scoring position, making it much easier for Gee to hold the Braves' late-inning lead at 2-1. Gee recorded the next two outs swiftly. The Mets tied the game in the bottom of the inning and went ahead in the eighth on a rally Lagares spearheaded.
After Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a walk, Lagares adroitly converted a hit-and-run attempt by slapping a high-and-outside pitch into the vacated hole between first and second. Lagares' infield hit moved Granderson to third. Lucas Duda drove Granderson home with the winning run one batter later.
"I said, I have to do something to put this ball in play," Lagares said. "I think I did my job."
The clutch single stretched Lagares' hit streak to nine games, a span over which he's hitting .352.
But it's all just a sideshow compared to his defense. This time, even he was impressed.
"I think that was the hardest one I've had to make so far," Lagares said. "I really don't know how I made that catch."
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Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.