Juan Lagares turned back time on Wednesday night. That's when the Mets' Gold Glover conjured images of another centerfielder that roamed this town long ago.
With a virtuoso catch in the seventh inning to rob Jace Peterson during the Mets' 3-2 win over the Braves, Lagares brought to mind Willie Mays. You know the one -- back turned to the plate, legs churning in a dead sprint, glove awaiting the ball that was arcing over his shoulder.
Lagares typically shrugs off his miracle catches. But even he conceded that this might have been his best work ever.
"That one was the hardest one I've made so far," said a smiling Lagares, who ventured into leftcenter to run down Peterson's drive.
Of course, he wasn't the only one. In the Mets clubhouse, his teammates reached for superlatives to describe what they had just witnessed.
Starter Dillon Gee delivered the most succinct response.
"Juan doing Juan things," he said.
But the most telling answer came from Matt Harvey, who was left speechless.
"I, I mean, he's, it's uh..." said Harvey, who stopped and started and smiled at his own sudden inability to find the right words.
What was there to say?
Eventually, he relayed the story of watching a replay of Peterson as he shook his head, a look of bewilderment covering his face. Harvey thought of the legions of hitters who were once in Peterson's shoes, thinking they had smoked an extra base hit, right up until the moment Lagares intervened.
"Juan likes to steal those from you," Harvey said.
Peterson, a lefthanded hitter, started the ball right at Lagares. But then, the ball began slicing toward the gap, forcing Lagares to adjust his route. The wind, which he said was "blowing like crazy," didn't help.
"That's the hardest part right there because I thought the ball was going to be straight," Lagares said. "When I looked up, I saw the ball behind me, and I just tried to throw the glove, you know?"
Lagares wasn't sure it was going to work until the baseball settled into his glove. Even after the fact, he still couldn't be certain about how it came to be.
Said Lagares: "I really don't know how I made that catch."