Now another image of Chavez is in the Mets' minds, right next door to the one of his remarkable catch in the playoffs last season. This one has him expertly dragging a bunt to right side, barely beyond the sprawl of Rockies reliever Ryan Speier, and ending a 12-inning game the Mets could have lost just as easily.
"It's definitely one win we're going to remember because it's unique," Shawn Green said. "It seems like Endy always gives you something that grabs your attention."
Green had seen the final play unfold from a unique perspective. He was the runner on third base with two out when Chavez bunted, the one who scored the decisive run in the sometimes exasperating, sometimes exhilarating, 2-1 victory against the Rockies that made a long night worthwhile.
He had an unobstructed view of the slider from the right-handed Speier boring in and down toward Chavez's right shin, and Chavez's precision bunt. "How did do that?" Green asked.
The ball caromed sharply off the bat and toward the area all good bunters identify as "by the pitcher." Speier had reacted quickly, skidding across the grass as the ball rolled. His sprawl was late and ineffective, though. He swiped at the ball with his glove in an effort to redirect it to first. Chavez, though, reached the base first. And, anyway, first baseman Todd Helton already had vacated the base, acknowledging the end of the Rockies' fifth loss in six games.
Green was home, and the remnants of a gathering of 38,500 were headed there, happy and giddy, chanting the name of the evening's hero and savoring the Mets' second one-run victory. "They love Endy here now," manager Willie Randolph said. "You can see why."
The bunt was a small-ball ending for a game that had turned twice on extra-base hits, the first a booming RBI triple to right-center field by Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki off Mets closer Billy Wagner in the 10th inning that scored pinch-runner Willy Taveras, and the second a stunning two-out, 2-2 pitch home run by Mets pinch-hitter Damion Easley that spared Wagner a loss and made Easley a co-star of the evening. The fourth pinch-hit homer of Easley's career also enabled the Mets to not waste seven shutout innings by Orlando Hernandez and allowed an opportunity for Joe Smith to gain his first big-league victory.
When Bobby Valentine was the Mets' manager, he often mentioned a "bunt and a bomb" as if they went together like peanut putter and jelly. Randolph's team merely reversed the order. "We do whatever we can," Randolph said.
The bunt delighted the manager who appreciates small ball generally and Chavez's multi-faceted game in particular.
"That's the play we work on on Field 7," Randolph said, referring to the almost-hidden, infield-only diamond in the Spring Training complex. "It was gutsy. If he bunts that back to the pitcher and we go to the 13th, it's even more deflating."
Randolph had been displeased with the Mets' execution until that point. They left 10 runners on base and had one hit -- Chavez's -- in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Mets had neglected to score in the third inning after a leadoff triple by Jose Valentin, in the fourth following a leadoff single and a stolen base by Carlos Beltran, in the fifth when Green led off with an infield single and in the seventh after Green had stretched a routine single through the middle into a double with two outs.
"I was getting pretty ticked," Randolph said.
But then Chavez executed and erased some of the frustration. "He's a very talented player," Randolph said. "He hasn't played that much in his career, but I trust him. He has made himself into a pretty clutch player."
Chavez does work on his bunting regularly with coach Sandy Alomar, but never has he practiced bunting a slider that -- had he not moved up in the box -- probably would have struck him in the back of the leg.
"Just fastballs," Chavez said, referring what he sees when he and Alomar practice bunting. "Sandy I work together once a week; 10 minutes, 20 pitches. But I never try to bunt like I did this time."
Chavez had taken the first pitch, a fastball, from Speier (0-1) and noticed Helton and second baseman Clint Barmas were playing back. "If he threw something softer, I knew I would try to bunt," Chavez said.
Alomar, coaching third, already had alerted Green of the possibility. Green broke on contact.
"What a play!" Green said.
"Endy has lots of weapons in his game," David Wright said. "He runs, he throws. We all know about the catch. He gets big hits. And now he gives us a walk-off bunt."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less