Nimmo leaps up to rob HR, brings the house down

Center fielder's stellar catch of potential game-tying homer helps Mets edge Dodgers

September 1st, 2022

NEW YORK -- As soon as Brandon Nimmo landed back on planet Earth, he pounded his fist, flexing his muscles and letting out multiple yelps of celebration. On the pitcher’s mound at Citi Field, Jacob deGrom raised his arms skyward and doffed his cap in Nimmo’s direction.

Nimmo had just completed what he later called “one of the best plays I’ve ever made,” robbing a homer from Justin Turner in the seventh inning Wednesday to preserve a one-run lead for deGrom. He was fired up for himself, fired up for deGrom, and most of all fired up for the Mets, who needed that catch in a 2-1 victory over the National League-leading Dodgers.

“This had a playoff feel to it,” Nimmo said. “It’s a sold-out crowd. It’s electric. The atmosphere is awesome. The 7 Line is right there behind it. So I think it’s just the culmination of the atmosphere, the teams that are playing and how important these games are becoming down the stretch.”

Off the bat, Nimmo wasn’t sure he’d have enough time to reach the ball no matter where it landed. Keeping his eyes skyward, Nimmo was unable to glance backward for a peek at the fence. Instead, he waited until the last possible moment and leapt, extending his glove over the wall as the rest of his body crashed into it.

“That was awesome,” deGrom said. “I made a mistake there, and he helped me out.”

"Great play by Nimmo,” added Turner. “Not a whole lot you can do about it.”

deGrom and Nimmo have a running joke in which, before each of the two-time Cy Young Award winner’s starts, he finds Nimmo and tells him he’s going to need lots of outfield defense. The gag, as Nimmo puts it, is that both players know “he’s going to strike a ton of people out.”

“I feel like I don’t get much work out there,” Nimmo said, laughing.

So when Nimmo made the catch on Wednesday, deGrom returned to the dugout and quipped: “See? I told you you’d need to play good defense tonight.”

The truth is, Nimmo has played solid center-field defense for most of the past two seasons, thanks to an analytical tweak -- he plays deeper than he once did -- and improved sprint speed. The speed is helpful for line drives in front of him, which Nimmo feels he can still catch up to. The depth aids him on balls over his head, which used to be more of a challenge.

So improved is Nimmo that when the Mets signed standout defender Starling Marte last offseason, they moved Marte to right and kept Nimmo in center. The longtime Met has repaid them with a series of spectacular catches, including a diving grab during the Mets’ combined no-hitter in April and a leaping play to rob Miami’s Jesús Sánchez of extra bases in July. Following that game, Mets first-base coach Wayne Kirby grabbed the ball, inscribed it with the Statcast details and placed it in Nimmo’s locker.

The ball from Wednesday’s catch, Nimmo said, might have to replace it.

“It’s robbing a home run and we end up winning by one run,” Nimmo said, reflecting on where the catch ranked among his career highlights. “So that’s probably at the top.”

Nimmo’s grab not only allowed deGrom to complete seven innings of one-run ball in his longest outing of the season, but it also seemed to inspire him against his final batter, Gavin Lux, who struck out on a sharp 92.7 mph slider. At that point, deGrom gave way to Adam Ottavino, who pitched a dominant eighth inning, then Edwin Díaz, who entered to the strains of a live performance by musician Timmy Trumpet.

The Mets still held a one-run lead thanks to Marte’s two-run homer in the third inning and Nimmo’s catch in the seventh. On the heels of that save, Díaz provided one of his own, preserving the impact of his teammate’s catch.

“It was a big moment,” Nimmo said. “I came through for my guys. I love when I can contribute and help these guys, because they pour their blood, sweat and tears out there on the field every day. I want to be there with them, helping them the best that I can. That was just the emotion of me helping my guys out pouring onto the field.”