Ankiel fielded Zimmerman’s rocket off the wall, turned and fired the ball to second. The ball landed in Omar Quintanilla’s glove as Zimmerman dove into second. He swerved inside the bag, stretching his fingertip to the base before Quintanilla’s tag hit his chest.
After a wild pitch pushed Zimmerman to third, LaRoche smacked a single to right, atoning for an earlier error that led to both of the Mets’ runs. Zimmerman scored to tie. Desmond ripped a double to the gap, which put men on second and third. Parnell intentionally walked Roger Bernadina, bringing Lombardozzi to the plate.
Earlier Tuesday, Johnson had intimated Rendon would be taking over for Espinosa as the everyday second baseman. In the moment, Lombardozzi had a chance to win it.
“Those are the situations you dream of,” Lombardozzi said.
He whiffed at a 97-mph fastball to fall behind, 1-2. He fouled off one pitch, took ball two, and then lashed three more foul. He felt comfortable as he saw each pitch. He told himself, “He has to come to me. He’s the one in trouble.”
Finally, Lombardozzi flicked a 97-mph fastball to left. Mike Baxter charged at first, then drifted back. Even LaRoche could score, sliding in with the winner. His teammates rushed to the field and engulfed him.
“I was out of breath,” Lombardozzi said. “I think I blacked out a little bit there.”
Back in the clubhouse, house music pumped from a new boom box, an addition courtesy of Werth. They had lost three of their teammates earlier, a casualty of an underachieving start. It is, as Werth said, time to go, and perhaps Tuesday night was a spark. “Maybe,” Werth said, “this is something we were looking for.”