In disbelief, Mets can only tip cap to Inciarte

Cespedes' would-be walk-off homer instead game's final out

In disbelief, Mets can only tip cap to Inciarte

NEW YORK -- Even afterward, having seen the replay and the crowd reaction and the Braves piling out of their dugout to embrace Ender Inciarte, the whole lot of them hugging on the field, Brandon Nimmo called it a home run.

"It was a home run," Nimmo said of Yoenis Cespedes' near-walk-off in a 4-3 Mets loss to the Braves on Wednesday. Nimmo shook his head. "He crushed that ball, and it was a home run. Then he brought it back."

In the National League's overall postseason picture, Inciarte's ability to do so -- to make, perhaps, the most impactful catch of the 2016 season -- did not do much to disrupt the Mets. Because the Cardinals and Giants also lost, the Mets dropped no ground in the NL Wild Card race. They remained stuck in a three-way tie with 10 games to play.

WC standings | 2016 tiebreaker scenarios | How to determine postseason tiebreakers

But the catch did siphon some life out of the Mets. How could it not? Skying over the right-center-field wall, Inciarte turned a win -- Cespedes' drive was clearly headed over the wall for a three-run homer -- into a loss and a three-game series sweep. As confident as they are that they can recover from such drama, the Mets could not help but feel dejected in the aftermath of Wednesday's defeat.

Inciarte's game-winning catch

"I knew I hit the ball well," Cespedes said through an interpreter, answering only one question before leaving the clubhouse. "I knew there was a good chance it was going to make it out. But he made a better play."

Statcast: Inciarte robs a homer

According to Statcast™, Cespedes' drive had an exit velocity of 101.7 mph and a launch angle of 28 degrees. Batted balls with those traits go for a hit 84 percent of the time and a home run 72 percent of the time.

• Statcast™ of the Day: Inciarte leaves all in awe

Inciarte had a first step of -0.73 seconds on the play, which means he was actually moving before the crack of the bat. He reached a top speed of 19.2 mph and covered 104 feet.

Inciarte, Harris rob Mets

"I mean, it's a great catch -- tremendous catch, one of the best you'll ever see," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Second night we've had the right guy up there at the right time. Tonight, he just made a tremendous play to save the game."

Recker's two-run tater

It was Collins who stood to lose the most from Inciarte's catch, considering the flak he took for a string of curious decisions in the game's later innings. Taking a three-run lead into the seventh, the Mets gave two back on an Anthony Recker homer, prompting Collins to warm his bullpen. Addison Reed entered with two outs, continuing to pitch into the eighth. But rather than let Reed finish that inning, Collins turned first to Josh Smoker, who allowed a hit to the only batter he faced, then to Jeurys Familia for a five-out save.

Familia surrenders lead

Familia gave up the rest of the lead before recording an out, then allowed Atlanta's go-ahead run in the ninth. In between, Collins used three pinch-hitters in the bottom of the eighth, with little success.

Braves take a late lead

Still, Cespedes had an opportunity to take Collins and everyone else off coals when he strutted to the plate with two men on base and two outs in the ninth. Though Cespedes had earned his own share of ire earlier in the night, dawdling to first on another near-homer that turned out to be a double, he also boasts the best late-game résumé of any Met. Time and again this season, Cespedes has come through in significant spots.

Cespedes' two near-homers

So it surprised no one when Cespedes shot a line drive toward right-center, carrying with it the promise of a mosh pit on the field, a whipped-cream pie to the face, a cheery postgame interview -- the works -- until Inciarte torpedoed all of it, shooing the Mets back to reality with his catch.

Braves on game-winning catch

"I turned around and looked, and saw him jumping for it," said Nimmo, who was on base at the time. "And then when I hit home plate, I turned around and saw him jumping up and down. I was like, 'No, there's no way he caught that.' But I watched the video and saw it clear as day, just like everyone else. It was a home run. He brought it back. You've just got to tip your cap."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.