Mike Baxter is heating up

For New York Mets fans, Mike Baxter will always be remembered for his remarkable catch in the seventh inning of Johan Santana historic night — the first no-hitter in franchise history.  When it seemed all but certain that Yadier Molina‘s long drive would end Santana’s chance at history, Baxter reached out and snagged the long fly, crashing hard into the left-field wall in the process.  Slow to his feet, the 27-year-old exited the game and after x-rays revealed a dislocated collarbone and several bruised ribs, his spectacular play earned him a six-week stay on the disabled list.  Prior to his trip to the DL, Baxter was hitting .322 with a .392 on-base percentage and .444 as a pinch hitter; a role in which he thrived in before his injury. In 18 pinch-hit at-bats, Baxter had eight hits, five doubles and six runs batted in.  And following a three-hit performance versus Toronto on May 20th, manager Terry Collins was determined to get his bat in the lineup.

“His at-bats, it’s speaking for itself,” Collins said, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. “You’ve got a red-hot bat like his, you’ve got to get him in there.”

His strong play earned him starts in seven of his next nine games, including his final four-in-a-row. In the best stretch of his career, it all came to end when he went crashing into the lef-field wall at Citi field, yet, the Queens native said he wouldn’t change a thing, according to Jeff Bradley of the Star-Ledger. The life-long Mets fan was just happy to be a part of Mets history, saying:

“It was a great night and I’m really happy that I was able to be a part of such a great night for Johan. He’s such a good teammate and such a leader in the clubhouse. To have a part in a night that he’ll never forget and something historic for him, it’s an honor. …Yeah, I saw it (the replay) a few times. I didn’t put it on loop or anything. Actually, I don’t mind watching it. Injuries happen. They’re part of the game, and I’m happy I made the play. I wouldn’t change it.”

While he will always be known for making one of the most important plays in Mets history, the fan favorite may be playing himself into a roster spot in 2013. Something I find myself rooting hard for. Though he struggled to find his groove upon his return — going just 1-for-12 with his only hit coming as a pinch hitter in the tenth inning of the clubs 8-7 victory over the Giants — he has since shaken off the rust.  During the Mets 2-0 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night, the 27-year-old extended his career best hitting streak to seven games collecting nine hits in 25 at-bats (.360), while improving his on-base percentage to .410 in the process.

Baxter has definitely proven to be a valuable asset over his 102, 2012 at-bats. Even though this is an extremely small sample size, I can’t help but be a believer in the Queens native. Maybe it’s the catch and what it meant in Mets history. Or, the fact he is from Queens and grew up rooting for the Mets. But, whatever it is, I am extremely curious to see how he finishes out his 2012 campaign, hoping it is strong enough to earn him a spot on the 2013 roster.  While I am not sure what Baxter’s future with the club will be, his name — and his remarkable play — will always be associated with that special night on June 1st.

“A fly ball deep left-field. Back goes Baxter, back on the track. He makes the catch! What a play.”

~ Gary Cohen, SNY

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