Hernandez creates own 'Kirk Gibson moment'
Mets' infielder swats homer one pitch after breaking bone in foot
NEW YORK -- Limping around the bases, seemingly poised to topple over at any moment, Luis Hernandez was the picture of some bygone postseason hero.
Moments earlier, Hernandez had hit a home run off one of the best starters in the National League. And yet he could barely stand.
One pitch after fouling a Tim Hudson sinker off his right foot, breaking a bone and -- following a lengthy chat with assistant trainer Mike Herbst -- opting to stay in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Braves, Hernandez clubbed a nearly identical pitch into the right-field stands for a homer.
"It was his Kirk Gibson moment," Hudson said.
It was, in short, inconceivable. Leading off the fifth inning, Hernandez -- he of two career home runs -- fouled a 1-0 sinker off his foot and immediately doubled over in pain. Herbst knew that Hernandez was hurting. Mets manager Jerry Manuel knew it, too. Standing in the dugout, shortstop Jose Reyes thought to himself, "Oh man, that's not good."
And yet somehow, perhaps against everyone's better judgment, Hernandez convinced Herbst to allow him to stay in the game. So, gingerly, the 26-year-old utility infielder dug into the batter's box, dropped the bat head on another Hudson sinker and redirected it over the wall.
Then, triggering memories of Gibson's famous lap in the 1988 World Series, he limped around the bases in both obvious and severe pain.
"That was something special," said Mets starter Dillon Gee. "It looked like it hurt from where I was sitting."
"He ran the bases like it was broken, there's no question about that," Hudson said. "He hit it good. I've got to tip my cap to him. I can't believe he hit it, to be honest with you, considering the shape that his foot was in. Good for him."
Moments later, the Mets, realizing the extent of his injury, removed Hernandez from the game. X-rays revealed that he had broken his foot, and so the Mets rushed Hernandez to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. He was not available to discuss his injury, leaving his teammates to explain their bizarre mixed feelings of wonderment and worry.
"When he was running from home plate to first place, that was a little bit ugly," Reyes said. "That's kind of tough to see, but I wish all the best for him."
Given an opportunity earlier this month to play nearly every day at second base, Hernandez struggled over the first half of September, dropping his average from .273 to .238. As a result, he had begun to lose playing time to rookie Ruben Tejada and, to a lesser extent, Joaquin Arias.
But ever since the Mets recalled Hernandez from Triple-A Buffalo back in late August, Manuel has been one of the infielder's staunchest supporters. And so Hernandez has continued to receive steady playing time and steady accolades, even amongst a crowded infield.
With a broken foot, however, his season is now almost certainly complete.
But Hernandez could hardly have scripted a more dramatic way to end it.
"Poor Luis, I felt sorry for him," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "Even when they put him back out there, it looked like he could hardly stand up. That's coming through."