Believe it or not, in a September that has featured numerous Met heroes, the face that is staring back at you with cocky eyes and a determined grin is perhaps the biggest key to the Mets recent refusal to give away the division.
White hot or ice cold, whatever you want to call it, Luis Ayala has been the main man for the Mets these past few weeks, giving up exactly 3 earned runs in his twelve games with the Amazins.
Huh--that's weird. I sort of remember this other guy, I think also named Ayala, who played for the Washington Nationals, sporting a 5.78 ERA and a 2-8 record. Man, he stunk. Wasn't he relegated to mop-up duty on arguably the worst team in baseball? Must be a distant cousin to the Ayala on the Mets.
A cousin may even be too closely related. Ayala left his former self with the tumbling Nats and has morphed into a near perfect closer, giving the Mets a much needed boost to their already inconsistent pen. With the loss of Wagner for this season, and perhaps most of next year as well, Ayala has fortuitously stepped into the closer's role in a tight division race and hasn't looked back.
Tonight the Mets beat the Nats 13-10. It was a pretty wild ride throughout the game, with big innings coming from each dug out, leads won and lost, heavy boos, and loud cheers. It was, to say the least, enough to make your head (and stomach) spin.
But when Ayala stepped out on the mound for the 9th inning with a 3 run lead--a lead that hadn't held up for the Mets throughout the game--Ayala was the picture of serenity. A few fastballs, a few nice plays in the field, and the game was over. No one reached base. Nobody blew out an arm. It was just Ayala pitching, in control, and out of the game.
Although I'm not Cameron Frye, and this isn't Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I still can't help but think that Cameron's words (somewhat altered) are perfectly appropriate for this exact moment: "Luis Ayala, your'e my hero".