Thanks for coming along. I know you hate when I drag you shopping, especially when there’s been so much riveting local sports on TV, but with all I needed to pick up for my Saturday night paragraph, I needed somebody’s opinion on how it all goes together.
I’m gonna try all these facts on for size. Be honest and tell me what you think.
• “The first-place Mets…”
Ah, you already knew that fit.
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games…”
That’s not too much, is it?
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one….”
One wasn’t technically a streak, but it doesn’t look bad to have it tucked in the back where you can barely see it, right?
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one and began a new winning streak…”
A little showy, but I think it works.
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one and began a new winning streak by defeating their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium…”
I can’t help it — I love to accessorize!
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one and began a new winning streak by defeating their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium, behind eight and two-thirds innings of solid pitching from undefeated ace Matt Harvey (4-0)…”
You know that it’s the details that make the outfit.
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one and began a new winning streak by defeating their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium, behind eight and two-thirds innings of solid pitching from undefeated ace Matt Harvey (4-0), home runs off the bats of Lucas Duda, Kevin Plawecki (the first of his career) and Eric Campbell…”
Y’think that overdoing it? I don’t think you can overdo that sort of thing. It makes a very powerful statement when you see them one after another.
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one and began a new winning streak by defeating their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium, behind eight and two-thirds innings of solid pitching from undefeated ace Matt Harvey (4-0), home runs off the bats of Lucas Duda, Kevin Plawecki (the first of his career) and Eric Campbell, along with four hits from Juan Lagares and a pair of RBIs from Wilmer Flores…”
You can’t say all of this doesn’t go together.
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one and began a new winning streak by defeating their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium, behind eight and two-thirds innings of solid pitching from undefeated ace Matt Harvey (4-0), home runs off the bats of Lucas Duda, Kevin Plawecki (the first of his career) and Eric Campbell, along with four hits from Juan Lagares and a pair of RBIs from Wilmer Flores, extending their lead over the preseason division favorite Nationals to seven games…”
I think I have a pretty complete ensemble here, but I feel a little something’s missing.
• “The first-place Mets, who recently won eleven consecutive games, broke their losing streak at one and began a new winning streak by defeating their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium, behind eight and two-thirds innings of solid pitching from undefeated ace Matt Harvey (4-0), home runs off the bats of Lucas Duda, Kevin Plawecki (the first of his career) and Eric Campbell, along with four hits from Juan Lagares and a pair of RBIs from Wilmer Flores, extending their lead over the preseason division favorite Nationals to seven games and completing a joyous day in New York sports that began with the Brooklyn Nets prevailing over the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center and the New York Islanders downing the Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum in their respective playoff matchups.”
Perfect! Isn’t it?
Yes, yes, yes, I’ve got a lot going on here, but you know how I feel about these things. I truly believe there’s no such thing as a paragraph being overdressed for a Saturday night on the town, especially a Saturday night after a Saturday afternoon like that.
Winning streaks end, from the innumerable one-gamers to the historic 11-gamers. One day we’ll have an even longer one. It’ll end too.
There are all sorts of ways to lose a ballgame — insane Gotterdammerungs that end with one team barely standing, nail-biters that don’t go your way, slothful snoozefests that never get started, relievers-hiding-under-the-stands fiascos that can’t end soon enough.
Tonight’s game? It was lost for a pair of intertwined reasons: Jacob deGrom wasn’t very good, while Michael Pineda was.
DeGrom’s pitches were consistently too high, and as a result they went too far, with Mark Teixeira depositing two fastballs down the right-field line and into the stands at Yankee Stadium. Despite my crabby tweet about parks that ought to have major-league dimensions, both would have been gone at Citi Field too, though Jacoby Ellsbury‘s third-inning solo homer would have been a moderately difficult catch in the right-center alley. And even the cleverest complaints about the Yankees’ ludicrous park can’t make up for the unhappy truth that the Mets were taking aim at the same fences the Yankees were.
The difference was the Mets weren’t reaching them, and they weren’t reaching them because Pineda was fabulous, carving hitters up with a truly evil slider. Kevin Plawecki‘s at-bat in the top of the fifth was simply cruel. Plawecki arrived at the plate with one out and Mets on first and third. The Mets were down 6-0, it’s true, but an 11-game winning streak allows you to fantasize a bit. It was early … OK, it was relatively early, the Mets’ only out of the inning had come when Teixeira made a nice play to rob Daniel Murphy of a double, and it was Yankee Stadium. Pull one over that silly porch and it would be 6-3 with 14 outs left to play with, and who knows?
Pineda got a first strike on Plawecki with a darting, vicious slider. Then he threw another one that was even more hellacious. Plawecki straightened up and you could forgive him if he was thinking, “They sure don’t throw shit like that in Triple-A.” The situation was still the same, but Plawecki was doomed. He knew it and I knew it and you did too. He was pre-out, with the only question how the sentence would come down. He took a pitch, fouled one off, and Pineda erased him on another unhittable slider, one that bore down on the center of the plate at the knee and then swerved sharply at Plawecki’s foot.
Sometimes your pitcher is overamped or doesn’t have the feel or things just don’t come together. It happens — hell, it happens 25 times a year or so. Sometimes the other team’s pitcher has all his pitches working at once and can hit a dime over and over again at 60 feet six inches. That happens 20-odd times a year too. Sometimes these things coincide and nothing but loyalty holds you there until the loss is official.
I found exactly two positives from the night. One was the flawless debut of Hansel Robles, Met No. 992 in our fitfully illustrious history, who arrived with nobody out and men on first and second and none other than Alex Rodriguez awaiting him. A-Rod reached on an infield single to load the bases, but no problem: Robles coaxed a foul pop from Teixeira, gunned down Brian McCann with a fastball, and got old friend Carlos Beltran with a slider. The game’s not that easy, but no reason to tell the newest Met that. He’ll find out soon enough; for tonight, he earned the right to be happy.
The other positive? It was that the Mets got waxed by the Yankees and I was annoyed because they lost and not because of who they lost to.
The Yankees are a perfectly fine 10-7 and tied for first place. (Plus, you know, rings and shit.) But they’re old and fragile, they play boring baseball, their announcers are terrible, their park’s a corporate mausoleum, and their self-awareness of their own undeniably rich history has curdled into an embarrassing haste to frantically dry-hump anything they can monetize. Bernie Williams, a nice guy and respectable member of the Hall of Very Good, signed a minor-league deal and then retirement papers this afternoon despite having not thrown a baseball in anger since before the world first saw an iPhone. He threw out the first pitch and will be back next month so the Yankees can a) sell more tickets; and b) retire his number, which I think even Yankee fans would admit isn’t a slam-dunk. I kind of hoped the Mets would bring out, say, Rusty Staub to announce he was retiring too, but they chose the high road.
Relatively harmless, I suppose, but the odd counterpart was this: If it had been Alex Rodriguez hitting two homers tonight — and thereby tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list — some Steinbrenner would have pulled a fire alarm and evacuated the stadium so the Yankees didn’t have to admit it was happening. This is part of a bizarre legal battle between the team and its best player. The Yankees have had to be shamed into even noting in agate type that A-Rod is nearing one of those baseball numbers whose significance nearly every fan can instantly identify: 660 means Willie Mays, and if you’ve got a player doing anything that puts him in the same conversation as WILLIE FUCKING MAYS it’s notable, even if you’re pissed about steroids and everyone agrees A-Rod is kind of a tool and most importantly of all you don’t want to pay him $6 million.
But look, everybody — there’s Bernie Williams.
You know what? Whatever. The Yankees have always been a bizarre mix of vainglorious and petty, but in the last couple of years they’ve become a parody, a funhouse-mirror version of themselves. Rather than be enraged by them, I just find them embarrassing. We lost to them and I shrugged.
Here’s hoping we win tomorrow — and then win the next 11 games after that.
And if not? Well, it happens.
And on the eleventh day, they did precisely what they’d been doing on the ten days that preceded it.
It’s a daily exercise with these Mets, now historically so. In front of your frozen but grateful blogger, his shivering photographer pal and scattered others who — like Sharon Chapman and me — value excellence over warmth, our team tied its franchise record for most consecutive wins: eleven. They also completed the first-ever homestand in which ten Mets games were played and ten Mets games were won.
By the Mets, in case you require clarification.
The size of the crowd at the moment the current winning streak reached 1969, 1972, 1986 and 1990 proportions might not have numbered 7,917, which is the sum total you get when you add those four sets of digits. Hardy as those of us who stayed in attendance to the final out were, this occasion deserved a grander setting, or at least a warmer one.
Then again, these are the 2015 Mets. They play through any conditions and they win through all of them.
Unseasonably chilly. Unreasonably sizzling. (Photo by Sharon Chapman)
It was as frigid at Citi Field on Thursday as the Mets are hot. Three prolonged replay challenges were issued by the two managers, but they paled in comparison to the challenge presented to we loyalists who stared — bundled or otherwise — into the face of Flushing Bay’s killer winds. But who cares about the unseasonable chill when the season is unreasonably sizzling? How often do you show up to an atmosphere reminiscent of (as Sharon observed) Sharknado 2 and not wind up feeling like you’re an extra in a disaster movie? More to the point, how often do you watch the Mets polish off the Braves on the heels of burying the Marlins right after sweeping the Phillies?
You gotta stick around to bear witness to the conclusion of the 10-0 homestand responsible for 90.9% of the eleven-game streak. This is history that’s been unfolding before our rapidly believing eyes. That “eleven in a row, achieved four times, first in 1969…” business is strong stuff in Met lore. I’ve been hearing about eleven straight wins my entire sentient fan life, a period that began a few months after the first of those four-now-five streaks. The Mets never winning more games than precisely that many consecutively was established for me as canon by Lindsey and Ralph and Bob and drilled into my consciousness forever more. It was the untopped therefore untoppable benchmark, the puffiest cumulus cloud of franchise flawlessness imaginable. When the Mets are as hot as hot can be, they win eleven in a row.
Maybe the record will stand in perpetuity, set and/or tied five times, never to be bettered. Or perhaps we’ll be able to use the number that comes after eleven in less than 24 hours. That would be wonderful.
For now, though, eleven consecutive wins is utterly Amazin’ to consider, while the ten out of ten at home is its own piece of heaven. I’ve been keeping track, since the very first time I entered Shea Stadium in 1973, of how the Mets do when I’m there. I jot the result and the essentials down in a steno pad. I filled one for Shea and am in the process of doing the same for Citi. I’ve never started a season by going to four games as I have in 2015 and writing down a W all four times.
It almost feels like cheating. “Geez,” I hear myself think, “I’m 4-0 only because I could’ve gone to any four games of the ten they’ve played at home thus far and seen a win. If I could’ve gone to all ten, I’d be 10-0 at Citi Field this year, just like the Mets.” As if there’s something wrong with that.
There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s living the dream. We go to Citi Field — no matter how nightmarish the weather — and we see our team win. It’s a dream come true. It’s not rigged, it’s not scripted, it’s not preordained. Despite the reboot of those splendid “The Magic is Back” t-shirts via the visionary entrepreneurship of The 7 Line, it’s not sprinkled with blue and orange pixie dust. It’s simply deserved. I don’t mean we’re swell guys and gals and therefore have this coming to us (I’d like to think that, but so would 29 other packs of fans). I mean the Mets go after each game determined to win it and they suss out every possible route to victory, working toward it and earning every bit of it.
“They find a way to win” is one of those phrases you usually hear applied to scrappy underdogs who have to repeatedly come from far behind and rely on supernatural breaks to keep getting lucky, The Magic is Back-style. These Mets don’t really proceed like that. Finding a way to win seems like the crux of their job description. The difference between them and the “they pulled it out” type of enterprise that “finds a way to win” is the 2015 Mets find a way to win virtually every half-inning.
They yield no ground in their search for an edge. They swing away immediately. They work the count interminably. They (usually) throw to the right base. They appear to have thought every situation through before it occurs. They generally display terrific instincts. They are logical in their approach. They are breathtakingly daring. They choke off the opposition’s rallies. They are impossible to foil. They take what the other team gives them. They go after what they have to have.
And, as is implicit in an eleven-game winning streak, they don’t lose.
I’ve studied up on 1969’s eleven-gamer and how it turned the franchise around. I remember the broad outlines of 1972’s record-matcher and the statement it was making until the fracturing of essential bones spoke louder. I have very clear and specific memories of how eleven straight got powerfully strung together in 1986 and again in 1990. I have just lived through the eleven wins in a row, already in progress, from 2015.
All have a stretch of 11-0 in common, yet I don’t see many similarities now to how things coalesced exactly as statistically beautifully as they did then. There is little sense of the “God took an apartment in New York City” explanation that defines the spirit of 1969’s initial surge. Rusty Staub and Willie Mays haven’t alighted among mere mortals to elevate a latter-day 1972. Nobody talked about this team being poised to “dominate” as Davey Johnson promised 1986’s Mets would (which they did). And when the 1990 Mets decided to rejoin the living, it was obvious how capable they were of reeling off win after win after win. Those were the Mets of Strawberry at his peak, Jefferies when he wasn’t his own worst enemy, Viola on a roll and a bunch of teammates who were either awesome as a rule or astounding for a while. The surprise wasn’t that the 1990 Mets won eleven in a row. The surprise was that the 1990 Mets didn’t win eleven in a row every eleven games.
This edition, the 2015 Mets, was supposed to be competitive to the point of maybe contending for that theoretically graspable second Wild Card, the least brassy of the brass rings available to a competent ballclub with a modicum of aspiration. If these Mets weren’t 13-3, nobody would be asking why the hell not?
Instead, they’re 13-3 — in first by 4½ games, best record in the majors — and, after continued exposure to their matter-of-fact charms, we are asking, well, why the hell not? They may not strike the impartial observer as great. But it can’t be argued they’re not good to the extreme.
On Thursday, every time something threatened to go wrong, the Mets dispatched the threat with ease. A bases-loaded situation presented itself in the bottom of the first to their least effective hitter to date, Daniel Murphy. Murphy made the most of it, doubling in all three runners, commencing a four-RBI day. Daniel also made a poor defensive decision that led to an unnecessary run in the fourth. That was two innings after a blockheaded interpretation of the can’t-block-the-plate rule awarded the Braves a run that had been legitimately cut down at the plate.
Bartolo Colon surely noticed he was pitching in a 3-3 game that shouldn’t have been any worse than 3-1, but it didn’t distract him from his myriad tasks at hand. Like skillfully bunting a runner over in the fifth. Like brilliantly picking a runner off first (by himself) in the sixth. Like never giving up another run after fleeting misfortune bit him. With Colon keeping Atlanta’s runs at three through six, the Mets could stroll to glory.
Brave pitchers weren’t nearly so disciplined. The Mets’ first inning was built on three walks from Julio Teheran to the first four batters he saw. The Mets’ fifth inning — a three-pitcher production, directed by hacky Fredi Gonzalez — took a misplayed grounder; a steal on a strikeout; a wild pitch; and another three walks to another set of four batters, and turned it into the go-ahead run. Two singles, a fielder’s choice, a balk and another single provided tack-on insurance in the seventh.
By then, it was 6-3. Bartolo had already passed the baton to Buddy Carlyle. Buddy would slap it in the left palm of Alex Torres, who in turn relayed it to Jeurys Familia for the final sprint. In the seventh, eighth and ninth, Atlanta sent eleven batters to the plate. They would produce a single and a walk but no runs. It never felt like they couldn’t come back (they still model tomahawks on their jerseys and they still pay Freddie Freeman to stoke our anxieties), but the more you watched the Mets, the more you were certain the Braves wouldn’t come back.
There were enough unstable elements darting about this gust-ridden eleventh consecutive win to suggest an alternate outcome was possible, but the Mets fan who stayed at his seat until he was standing and vigorously clapping his gloved hands while history beckoned with two out in the ninth knew no such answer was blowing in the wind. The Mets were going to win this one, like they’d won the previous ten.
With no doubt from them and oodles of joy for us.
A podcast appearance of a different stripe: I joined Yanks Go Yard to talk Subway Series and generally obsess on the Mets some more. Listen here, if you dare.
I’ve been thinking of this one game. I was in Connecticut. The Mets were in Atlanta. They were playing the Braves on a Saturday night and Dillon Gee wasn’t very good.
Since that game I’ve driven back to New York, worked my butt off for three days and nights, flown to California where I spent three days at a Star Wars convention, flown back and gotten un-jetlagged. I’ve done a lot of things. You have too. There are Mets fans who’ve come down with really nasty flus, been laid out, started feeling better and declared themselves fit for duty. Somewhere out there babies have been born, watched over in hospitals, sent home and their parents are getting the hang of this wonderful new thing. At least three big movie trailers have set the Internet a-flutter. I haven’t paid attention but I’m sure at least three eye-rolling political kerfuffles have done the same. Another Saturday night’s come and gone and now another one’s in view. The aforementioned Dillon Gee’s rested up, started another game, rested some more, had a heart-to-heart with his manager and started yet again.
You know what hasn’t happened during that time when lots of other stuff has happened?
The Mets haven’t lost.
Not once. Not at all. They’ve won 10 in a row. They’re playing .800 ball on the season. They’re in first place by a but-wait-it’s-April 3 1/2 games.
They’re playing nearly perfect baseball, and they’re doing it despite losing guys like it’s World War I.
These are pinch-me days and nights.
Last night was a perfect example. The Mets seemed flat after a half-hour’s rain delay, falling behind the Braves 1-0 and then 2-1. But they hung in there. And they kept making plays. And things kept happening that made you raise an eyebrow.
Like Ruben Tejada making a leaping catch at second that ended with the ball perched atop a waffle cone of glove. As he returned to Earth, Tejada snapped his mitt and the ball nestled itself obediently into the leather, because that’s what happens when you’re winning 10 in a row.
Or Gee facing trouble in the fourth, springing off the mound to seize a grounder, firing the ball to second base at an awkward angle, not taking off the umpire’s head and pumping his fist at the 1-6-3 double play.
Or Wilmer Flores looking brave afield and stalwart at the plate, rifling a home run into the party deck to draw the Mets even.
Or Juan Lagares making a catch for the ages, somehow looking behind him and tracking a ball cutting to his left and putting his glove in the perfect position to reel it in. “That’s over his head,” I said to Emily with the ball in flight. “The heck it is,” said Juan Lagares.
Or Sean Gilmartin running into trouble retiring lefties, which is the sum total of his job, and exiting to have Buddy Carlyle coolly dispatch Jonny Gomes. Carlyle would be rewarded with a W, and deservedly so.
Or Curtis Granderson getting his Eddie Gaedel on, crouching beneath a 3-2 pitch and completing the journey from 0-2 count to base on balls. (And, along the way, serving as Exhibit A if you need to explain to your kid why batting average is a dumb stat.) Of course Lagares then executed a perfect hit-and-run, with poor Jace Peterson reversing for the ball he could no longer reach, like an extra in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and Lucas Duda smacking the go-ahead single.
Trouble? Nah. Jeurys Familia dispatched the Braves with no drama in the ninth, and the good guys had won, again.
We’ll now to the obligatory cautions. This isn’t to avert the baleful eyes of the baseball gods, but because the only way to survive baseball is to remember it’s an unfair game.
The Mets aren’t going to win five out of six one-run games the rest of the year. They had a 10-game winning streak in 2008, a year that ended about as painfully as one might imagine. The 2010 Mets went 21-7 over one giddy stretch in a thoroughly ungiddy season. The ’72 Mets started out 30-11 and didn’t win a thing. There will be weeks where nothing goes right and you can feel doom tiptoeing closer with every ball booted and batter walked. The manager and the players will talk about grinding it out and being a little flat and we will scoff and mutter and call for heads to roll. When those days arrive — and arrive they will — remembering how we floated through April will be no comfort whatsoever. Keep that in mind now so you’re not so torn up by it later, even though you will be.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t be enjoying what’s happening now. You should be enjoying it even more. Go outside and laugh into the blue sky. Grin at Yankee fans. Declare to everyone who asks and even those who don’t that you’re a fan of the best team in baseball. (Hey, you could look it up.) Suggest that hey, let’s play two. Take your broom to Citi Field.
Baseball’s an unfair game. Right now it’s being unfair to our opponents. Just enjoy the pinch-me days, however long they last.
If you’re a sports fan, the best Aprils are the most stressful Aprils. In competitive context, such Aprils are the least cruellest of months, but they can play on your nerves.
The two teams I root for in winter, the Nets and the Islanders, have made it to spring’s playoffs. It beats their having to go home with the Philadelphia hoi polloi — which is often on their respective agendas this time of year — but their graduation to postseason doesn’t come without a cost. Every inbounds pass, every puck not cleared, every turn of momentum is a potential killer. One too many wrong moves and their Aprils are suddenly over. For that matter, any given right move is tricky to emotionally handle. When the Islanders grab a one-goal lead or the Nets improbably slice a lead to a single bucket, I just assume everything’s going to be French fries and gravy from here on out. They’ll win this game, they’ll win this series, I wonder how much I should put aside for commemorative t-shirts. I simply can’t envision anything going awry, so when the slightest thing inevitably does go off course, I am practically shattered inside.
And that’s just hockey and basketball, which are mere diversions from my true fan calling.
The Mets on a nine-game winning streak in April is approximately nine kajillion times better than the Mets on a nine-game losing streak in April. That’s probably understating the difference given the time of the season we’re in currently. You get this hot this early then you’re atop the heap from practically the get-go (for proof, please examine this morning’s edition of the 2015 National League East standings). On the other hand, a nine-game winning streak that plops itself down toward the tail end of a campaign that’s already been spayed or neutered serves mostly to stick its tongue out at you. Where, I can remember asking myself as the Mets went on hollow win binges in the latter stages of 1992 and 2002, was this when we needed it?
To approach the kind of finish for which the Nets (unlikely) and the Islanders (who knows?) are angling, you need to have a massive rollout. The proportions of the Met start to date are positively and historically ginormous. Everything’s coming up Howie Roses, you may have noticed.
At Citi Field against the second-place Braves Tuesday night, the night when the first-place Mets won their ninth game in a row, 7-1, and extended their record to a nearly unprecedented 11-3 — a standard happily shared with 1986 — they were their typical unstoppable selves. Jon Niese (6.1 IP, 1 ER) was smooth enough to pass for silk. Curtis Granderson remembered to retrieve his bat from cold storage and drove in four runs, thus increasing his season total to exactly four. Kevin Plawecki…well, what can you say about a major league debut that includes two hits, a bullet of a throw to second and the handling of five pitchers who gave up five hits among them?
We already had a fairly state-of-the-art catcher, yet you know how it is when they release the sleeker, shinier model, especially when the not so old one gets a little dinged around the edges and needs to be reset; it’s just hard to resist such an enticing upgrade. Right now you can’t blame us for being mesmerized by the Plawecki demo. Might we still come across some bugs that will impede its apps? Ah, ring it up and we’ll figure that out once we get it home.
Transfer the rate at which the Mets are going to a participant in the NBA or NHL playoffs and you’d have a team legitimately on the verge of a championship. But April in baseball is only the beginning, and that beginning, no matter how it sizzles, leads to a whole lot of middle that isn’t nearly as neat to forecast. I can’t imagine the Mets will maintain their 9-0 or even their lesser 11-3 pace forever, but the thing is, when they’re going this well, I can’t imagine they won’t.
That’s a scary way to think. Fun, but scary.
This, I thought as I sat in Promenade Box 405 during the sun-soaked bottom of the fourth on Sunday, is where the dream has at last arrived to meet reality. All those computer-generated images of bustling new Mets Ballpark from 2006 tried to capture what the future would look like. It would have people and enthusiasm and, presumably, winning. It was what everything was leading up to.
There used to be the idea of a ballpark here. At last, it actually exists the way it oughta be.
The path, we know, went astray. But now, nine years after we were shown our first glimpse of the concept that would soon be dubbed Citi Field — and six since everything about the team and the facility it inhabits had begun to reliably disappoint us — the course corrected itself.
Met after Met was reaching base.
Run after run was crossing home plate.
Seat after seat was filled.
Cow-Bell Man, modeling the jersey of the day’s starting pitcher, was hustling from section to section and leading whole groups in chants of LET’S GO METS!
Whole groups were responding to his cue.
The Mets, in turn, were responding to them.
I wanted to freeze the moment. I have, I suppose. I will keep it with me for at least the rest of this season. The fourth inning on April 19 was the instant when either:
a) the Mets once and for all transcended the miasma that had defined them for more than a half-a-decade and elevated themselves onto a whole new level of competence, competitiveness and contention that would stoke our inner fires for the foreseeable future and make us proud for the rest of our days; or
b) the Mets experienced their high point of 2015, because it was all about to go achily downhill from there.
It was a fine half-inning, that bottom of the fourth. The Mets just kept coming against the Marlins until they couldn’t be held back. Singles and walks and singles and walks and a booming three-run double and the starting pitcher lining out and another walk and another single and when the dust cloud that had been hovering over the joint since 2009 evaporated, the Mets were leading the Marlins, 7-1.
They were in first place, they were undefeated at home, they were riding their longest winning streak in five years and they had their ace taking the ball to protect a six-run lead against an surprisingly inept and seemingly demoralized opponent. We, the fans, had found our voice in the preceding week, remembering what it was like to pour ourselves into baseball games again, taking our team seriously and blissfully.
Going to the fifth, how could it get better than that?
It couldn’t. It could only get worse.
The good news, when the afternoon was over, was that the Mets remained winners. They secured (barely) their eighth consecutive victory, matching two such spurts from 2010, a season nobody associates with uninterrupted winning, but it actually happened. It happened in the first half. The Mets went to hell in the second half. We weren’t surprised. Here, in 2015, we’ve seen the calendars and understood it was April, but we’ve proceed in the vein of “if April’s like this, we can’t way for May and June and everything that follows.”
And maybe we still will see it like that when our schedule resumes Tuesday night against second-place Atlanta. If you were in Promenade or anywhere at Citi Field on Sunday as I was, I suspect you maintained that vibe when Jeurys Familia was grounding out the perpetually looming Giancarlo Stanton to seal the four-game sweep and create the eight-game streak. You couldn’t have not been caught up in the momentum that was still in the air from the bottom of the fourth, when those seven runs scored and the ball was returned to Matt Harvey to make the rest of the affair academic.
At the same time, your life as a Mets fan had gone through myriad changes in the innings it took to complete the journey to eight straight.
First, there was the matter of Harvey himself, who it turned out was pitching under the influence of some horrible virus. Mind you, he wasn’t getting lit up by the Marlins the way had had been the last time I sat in Promenade to see him pitch. That was in 2013, against the Tigers, the day he didn’t have it, the day that led to the announcement he wouldn’t be on the mound again for an indeterminate period of eternal waiting. But the Marlins were getting hits, and I couldn’t help but think, “I sure hope the Mets add to this 7-1 lead.”
Second, there was the Mets lineup not adding to that 7-1 lead. Harvey got a hit. Juan Lagares got one later. That was it. The unstoppable Mets from the fourth went into sleep mode from the fifth onward.
Third, the effort to push Harvey through the seventh backfired. We didn’t know he’d been sick that morning. We just figured he ran out of gas. That’s OK. He is still technically coming back from an extended absence; it just seems like he’s been throwing shutouts without pause forever.
Fourth, after Harvey exited with two on, nobody out and his lead down to 7-3, Jerry Blevins entered to settle down our simmering nerves. He retired Ichiro Suzuki on a little line drive to first. He then induced a liner to the mound from Dee Gordon, and it, too, resulted in an out. Well, two outs, sort of. The ball bounced off some element of Blevins’s body and he was able to glove it and toss it to first to get the runner. So Gordon was out.
Fifth, Blevins was out. That liner fractured Jerry’s left forearm, the one he uses for pitching. We didn’t know that yet in Promenade. We just saw him leaving for what we decided were precautionary reasons. It had to be a precaution, right? You can’t be too careful with the newly obtained glue to your bullpen. Besides, it was still a four-run lead, we were still headed toward an eight-game streak and (for some of us) there was the added bonus of learning the Islanders had just defeated the Capitals in overtime. I was in YES YES YES mode. I did not want to insert an OUCH into the middle of my Sunday euphoria.
Sixth, Alex Torres replaced Blevins in one of those “he’ll get all the time he needs to warm up” situations, which never sit well. Sure enough, Torres threw a wild pitch that made it 7-4 before striking out Christian Yelich.
Seventh, why didn’t Lucas Duda blast a three-run homer to cap the bottom of the fourth when he had he chance? Three innings had passed since he had the golden opportunity to put the game away (as if a six-run edge and Matt Harvey weren’t reassurance enough) and I was still desperately mentally seeking tack-on runs.
Eighth, Brad Hand started the bottom of the seventh hitting Travis d’Arnaud’s hand. I would’ve preferred Travis d’Arnaud had hit Brad Hand’s d’Arnaud. It doesn’t work that way. D’Arnaud was instantly removed. This didn’t look like a precaution. This looked like a truckload of trouble.
Ninth, Buddy Carlyle, the bullpen savior from Opening Day and Saturday night, had nothing in the eighth, but where was Terry Collins going to turn? He’d already used his top two lefties, he was saving his closer for an inning later and what happened to our overloaded eight-man bullpen anyway? Even our seven-man bullpen, now that Blevins was being examined somewhere in the stadium bowels, seemed amazingly inadequate to the task of extinguishing the Miami Marlins. Buddy, who’s been persevering in baseball since Dallas Green was making the calls to the Met bullpen, persevered to finish out the inning, which was great. Less great: It was now 7-6.
Tenth, my briefly recharged phone had enough juice left in it to bring me up to speed on the Mets missing in action. Blevins had suffered a fracture. D’Arnaud had suffered a fracture, too. His right hand was broken. Anybody within earshot of me who didn’t know this news knew it soon enough by my repeated use of a particular four-letter word. The Mets were going for eight wins in a row. I may have racked up a dozen consecutive expletives.
Eleventh, the Marlins got the tying run to second off Familia. It all came down to Stanton. It always comes down to Stanton. Fortunately, the final encounter in which he was involved came down on the side of Familia and the Mets. What was once a 7-1 romp ended a 7-6 nailbiter…with casualties.
A win being a win, I was more celebratory than mournful. I willfully ignored what happened to our budding star catcher and our essential lefty reliever. I tried to forget that d’Arnaud and Blevins had joined the unparticipating ranks of Edgin, Wheeler, Black, Mejia and Wright. I temporarily overcame my inevitable tetherance to the past and tamped down my impulse to invoke 1972, the year when a superb Met start (25-7) was obliterated by an outbreak of injuries. I wondered a little about what Kevin Plawecki would show as the new catcher and Hansel Robles would add to the bullpen, but neither of those pending callups would appear at Citi Field until Tuesday, and on Sunday that was a world away.
I wanted to stay in the world we’d been building since last Monday, when the Mets came home and took three of three from the Phillies and four of four from the Marlins while we urged them on with the kind of passion previously thought to have fallen victim to deep-seated cynicism and a diligent demolition crew. I wanted this week to go on forever, or at least into next week. I wanted the fourth inning to stay with me.
It did. It has. It will.
When I fell asleep last night, the first-place Mets had won their seventh in a row and held the best record in the National League. When I woke up this morning, the still first-place Mets had still won their seventh in a row and still held the best record in the National League.
So this isn’t a dream. Good to know.
Inevitably we drift from the territory known as Pinch Me into the harsh light of day where we are spurred by habit and necessity to actually worry about what happens in a given baseball game. All this may feel different, but Saturday night’s ninth inning was a reminder that the eerily familiar lurks around every bullpen corner. Saturday night’s result was a better reminder, though, that better than previously experienced outcomes can become familiar without turning eerie.
Jacob deGrom didn’t have his best command against the Marlins. Jacob deGrom hasn’t had his best command in three starts, actually, yet except for a home run in his very first inning of his season’s work, Jacob deGrom hasn’t been touched in a meaningful way by any opposing hitter. When I think of the term unflappable, I think of a pitcher whose bearing down is etched onto his face as a non-verbal warning of “OK, you’re not gonna get me, ’cause I’m gonna get you.”
I don’t get that when I look at Jacob deGrom. I look at Jacob deGrom and I see one of the guys from down the hall grabbing his Frisbee on the way to the quad. Did he finish that paper? Doesn’t he have studying to do like the rest of us? Isn’t he stressing over his grades?
What stress? Jacob’s just one of those guys who’s got the situation under control. C’mon, he says as he tosses you the Frisbee, we’re gonna mess around for a while and then a bunch of us are going in on a Busch suitcase and after that, I dunno, it’ll be fun. And he’s right. It always is when he’s throwing.
The Marlins had their moments, all of them frustrating. Three replay challenges — one ours, two theirs — went Miami’s way and none of them particularly helped the Fish cause. Giancarlo Stanton, whose continued menacing presence in the middle of the Marlin order is made possible by a grant from the Wilver Stargell Foundation (and viewers like you), tried to fire up his teammates, but for eight innings they seemed as immune to his charms as deGrom and Buddy Carlyle were untouched by his bat. Three strikeouts and a fly ball to right that for a change didn’t fly clear to College Point Blvd. were all Giancarlo could inspire.
The Mets, on the other hand, were led by everybody. While deGrom was being totally cool for seven innings, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores were depositing baseballs over the left field fence, Eric Campbell was filling in for David Wright so seamlessly that he could’ve been voted acting captain and Daniel Murphy lunged to cover second at the precise moment a runner on first wasn’t stealing, thus creating a hole to put two on when a double play ball was rolling rolled to where Daniel had just been standing. No, that wasn’t an actual asset, but the point is a Met made a mistake and the rest of the Mets overcame it.
Winning teams do that.
The lone visitor at raucous, sold-out Citi Field to be a real pain in our ascent was Dee Gordon, who fits the profile of irritating Marlin perfectly, in that he wears a Marlin uniform. As if inhabited by the spirit of Juan Pierre, Hanley Ramirez and old Joe Robbie himself, Gordon came up five times and recorded a hit five times. For most of the game, he was no worse than a thorn in our side, the kind of prickly sticker deGrom might notice on his sock while catching the Frisbee and pluck from the fabric with no fuss.
It was Gordon who was in the middle of the Met challenge that failed in the first. Gordon was ruled safe but then thrown out almost immediately at second by d’Arnaud.
It was Gordon who was in the middle of the Marlin challenge that succeeded in the third, but only to a point. Gordon was ruled safe at first but the confusion during the marathon review session constrained Adeiny Hechavarria, who had taken off from second, from scoring although he had crossed home plate during the third out that ultimately wasn’t the third out (and then he was stranded there when deGrom struck out Christian Yelich for the actual third out).
It was Gordon who was the Marlin on first when Murph acted out his phantom stolen base prevention strategy in the sixth, allowing him to take second despite Daniel’s best/worst instincts, yet he was left there as deGrom proceeded to set down his Frisbee, Stanton and Martin Prado in that precise order.
Dee Gordon was Wile E. Coyote for three at-bats, never getting the upper hand he sought or thought. In the eighth, he saw Sean Gilmartin pitching and responded with his fourth hit, a double that drove Jeff Baker home with the first Miami run. It seemed no more than a harmless footnote, given that the Mets had already scored five times and Carlyle came on to extricate New York from the tiniest spot of jam Gilmartin left behind. Even when the Mets had a sixth run disallowed when the third extended replay challenge of the evening tilted toward the Marlins — Campbell not safe at first in the eighth — it was all going the Road Runner’s way. The Mets were safely ahead, Billy Joel had confirmed it was a pretty good crowd for a Saturday, the manager had no reason to not give us a smile…all that remained was for the dynamic duo of Jerry Blevins and Jeurys Familia to nail down the win per usual and for Citi Field’s Bang Cap fireworks squadron to do their faintest imitation of your favorite Grucci Brother.
What’s that? The Mets’ most dependable relievers to date weren’t available? Terry Collins noticed that if you drive an arm into the ground it might not be terribly resilient when you need to dig it up later? Oh.
Well, that’s all right. We have Carlos Torres. Carlos Torres is always available. Carlos Torres almost always comes through for the Mets.
Saturday’s ninth was not Carlos’s time. Michael Morse took him out of this park and three others to make it 5-2. Marcel Ozuna singled. Though Ichiro Suzuki struck out (amid the sound of 40,000 diaphragms exhaling), Hechavarria singled, and then there was a wild pitch to put runners on second and third, and why, era of good feelings notwithstanding, is Carlos Torres still pitching? Why was Buddy Carlyle removed when he got two clutch outs in the eighth? How does a frigging Hall of Fame pitcher give up seven runs in the first inning to a bunch of ragtag bottom-feeders with the entire season on the line?
An existential crisis is always getting loose in the on-deck circle when the Marlins come to play the Mets. Yet Torres rallied to strike out J.T. Realmuto, leaving only one Marlin to be reeled in.
That Marlin was Dee Gordon, who was as despicable to the Met cause Saturday night as his namesake G. Gordon Liddy was a couple of generations before to the cause of participatory democracy. G. Gordon was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal. Dee Gordon was allowed to face Torres with two runners in scoring position after collecting four hits and, tactically, it was a scandal. Carlos predictably gave up Gordon’s fifth hit of the night, a two-run single to cut the Mets lead to 5-4. Yelich, who’s good, was up next. Stanton, who’s Stanton, was up after him.
Good night, Carlos Torres. Good evening, Alex Torres. Wearing a protective cap unlike any other ever worn by a Met pitcher before, this Torres hadn’t been dependable at all, but if Terry was going to avoid overworking Familia and Blevins, then it was going to have to be Alex Torres (or Erik Goeddel, who at the very least should have been fresh, not having pitched at all since the Mets clinched our provisional affections).
You know what happened next. The Marlins weren’t the Marlins. Instead, the Mets were the Mets. Alex Torres, odd hat and all, struck out Yelich. It was like he did so in slow motion. The bat slipped from Christian’s hands on his swinging third strike, leading to an instant where the entirety of Metsopotamia stared in horror before recovering to confirm, “he’s out, though, right?” Yes, he was out. The signal was made; the pyrotechnics, such as they are, could be loaded; and the Mets couldn’t be stopped. It wasn’t as easy as we might have suspected, but Dee Gordon wound up sleeping with the rest of the Fishes.
As bedtime Torres go, Alex gave us a pretty nice one.
Are you supposed to know when you’ve been born again? Because I’m pretty sure I have been, fanwise.
Somewhere between Thursday night, when I expected everything to go wrong but it didn’t, and Friday night, when it never occurred to me anything would go wrong and it didn’t, I underwent some kind of transformation.
Perhaps Bartolo Colon dunked me three times in a vat of Rheingold and performed a baseball baptism on me when I wasn’t paying attention. It’s totally plausible that he did. He does everything else.
Call it a spiritual rebirth, a renewal of faith, a state of enlightenment. Call it 8-3, six in a row, another day dawning with the Mets in first place. I’m calling it different from whatever directly preceded the way I’m feeling now. I’m calling it different from anything I’ve ever felt before in a lifetime’s devotion to the cause of the New York Mets.
Seriously. I’ve experienced better records, longer winning streaks, extended stays at the top of the division. But I’ve never quite experienced this sense of joyous calm about it. I’m excited and enthusiastic, yes, yet I’m not anxious about it. It simply feels right.
The Mets are winning game after game. I love it. I love them. I love us. I feel no ire as I usually do. In recent years I couldn’t even enjoy the intermittent bouts with victory because they felt almost pointless. I knew we’d go back to losing sooner rather than later and that the losing would never truly end.
I know no such thing right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen during the rest of 2015. I’m not worried about it. I do know nothing about the Mets bothers me at this moment.
For example, on Friday afternoon, I learned they assigned Danny Muno No. 16. Most days I believe No. 16 should receive reverential treatment; if they’re not going to retire it for Dwight Gooden, then hold it in reserve for a player of veteran distinction or particular promise. I still believe that. I don’t believe a random rookie utility infielder should be handed Dr. K’s number. But I can’t get riled up about it.
The Mets don’t rile me up in the present. All the peripheral issues that generally gnaw at me are on hiatus. The ballpark? It’s a gem. The manager? He’s a genius. The owners? I forget their names.
The team is good. How good? In the long run, I have no idea. In the near term, they are a pleasure to watch. I see them fall behind in the top of the first when Colon gives up a home run to Giancarlo Stanton and I’m unperturbed. Sure Stanton’s killed us with regularity. Sure he’ll have several more opportunities to continuing killing us tonight.
But so what? I’ve been born again. You’ll have to do better than Giancarlo Stanton and his lethal bat if you want to take me down.
The Mets were being no-hit through four? Also so what? Is David Phelps really going to throw a no-hitter tonight? There were Friday nights when I would have strongly considered the possibility. It never crossed my mind on this one.
Sure enough, the Mets started hitting in the fifth and they tied the score at one. Colon not only hadn’t give up anything else to Stanton or any Marlin, but he drove in that tying run with a well-struck sacrifice fly. I told you he does it all.
He and Gold Glover Juan Lagares, that is. Lagares accepted his 2014 award before the game and earned his 2015 award during the game via three catches that were progressively Juan, Juaner and Juanest. You know the old saying: Two-thirds of the earth is covered by Bartolo Colon — and Juan Lagares is a sensational center fielder.
The fifth was fun. The sixth was more fun. Two more Met runs crossed the plate. Colon pitched seven. Jerry Blevins replaced him and was perfect in the eighth. Then Daniel Murphy, one of the few Mets who hadn’t contributed much to the winning ways of 2015, got on board and drove in a fourth run. Then Jeurys Familia did the rest.
I enjoyed the 4-1 win fully and embraced the result without hesitation. I didn’t worry that it’s no more than a prelude to a regression toward the mean and I didn’t attempt to link it to any obvious April precedent. I couldn’t, because this is like nothing I’ve felt before. Forty-seven seasons into my Mets fandom, I’m learning I can feel them in unprecedented ways.
That, to me, is more amazing than an 8-3 start.
You can draw parallels and comparisons with previous seasons and their encouraging beginnings. You can project out from the best of the past anything you want. Yet I’m not tempted to. I’ve spent most of my existence keeping close tabs on this franchise and I’m telling you: this feels different.
I feel equally untethered to the unrelenting sour times of the recent past and the occasionally glorious times of the distant past, and I don’t mind. I take comfort in knowing it’s all back there and that it all informs what we expect and how we react. Trust me, I know where to find it should I need it. This 2015 journey, though, is its own thing: kinda young, kinda now…kinda free, kinda wow.
That last part is from an old perfume commercial, but this spiritual or emotional or whatever it is rebirth that stems from the Mets winning the way they are is pretty sweet, so what the hell…y’know?
In most parallel universes, the Mets lost Thursday night. They had to.
They were playing the Marlins.
Giancarlo Stanton went traditionally deep.
They were playing the Marlins.
Martin Prado added his own four cents.
They were playing the Marlins.
Dillon Gee pitched gamefully but not quite well enough to fully extricate himself from his last tangle of trouble.
They were playing the Marlins.
Rafael Montero’s control deserted him at a most inopportune juncture.
They were playing the Marlins.
Twice deficits were overcome only to have go-ahead or tying runs registered in immediate response.
They were playing the Marlins.
Ichiro Suzuki was disinterred from the great beyond to a) triple and b) score in time-lapse fashion.
Did I mention they were playing the Marlins?
This was so a Mets game waiting to be lost — and it was.
It was lost by the Marlins — because they were playing the Mets.
Welcome to the only universe that counts, the universe in which it’s 2015 and the Mets win games like Thursday night’s, 7-5, to take sole possession of first place.
You say it’s early? I say the Mets are in first place. I also say we’re both right. I will add that if you take out your pocket schedule and carefully apply an X-Acto knife to each and every box printed, you will wind up with a pile of 162 boxes representing 162 games and they will each weigh the same: the boxes from the first weeks of the season; the boxes from the last weeks of the season; the boxes from everywhere in between.
Now line them up sequentially. Onto the box marked April 16, scrawl a W. It will look perfectly in place alongside the W’s you can also legitimately enter onto the preceding four boxes, just as the Mets look perfectly in place in first, thanks to winning games that are as important to win now as they’ll be important to win later.
Five wins in a row. Seven wins out of ten overall. A half-game lead over idle Atlanta. A three game lead over consensus favorite Washington. One-hundred fifty-two games to go, to anticipate, to wonder what wonders they’ll bring.
Or, y’know, just one game that didn’t get away the way you’ve come to expect games like Thursday’s against the Marlins to get away because Stanton and Prado and Suzuki did the kind of stuff that usually dooms the Mets in these matchups.
What you might not have expected prior to extremely recent developments also happened, though.
You might not have expected Gee to recover from his gopher lapses and strike out seven in five and two-thirds.
You might not have expected Lucas Duda’s emergence (.395/.439/.632) as a five-tool badass.
You might not have expected Wilmer Flores (three-run homer) to have remembered he’s in there for his bat.
You might not have expected Eric Campbell to replace David Wright so seamlessly that the promotions people are calling the printers to find out if they can airbrush him into Sunday’s giveaway posters.
You might not have expected the truncated right field dimensions to hold J.T. Realmuto’s obvious sixth-inning grand slam off Montero or Curtis Granderson to Lagareshly track it down and turn it into a crucial third out.
You might not have expected a sequence of daggers — Ichiro’s matter-of-fact pinch-triple, Daniel Murphy’s amazingly awful throw home on Dee Gordon’s grounder, the agonizingly slow replay review process that reversed the Ancient Mariner’s out at the plate into Miami’s tying tally — to not completely maim the Mets’ momentum.
You might not have expected Jerry Blevins to exemplify grace under pressure, throw a double play ball and decisively stanch Marlin momentum.
You might not have expected John Mayberry to rather routinely steal a crucial base to set up the ultimate go-ahead run.
You might not have expected Michael Cuddyer to be earning his “this guy is totally clutch” bonuses so soon.
You might not have expected Jeurys Familia to take without trauma to the ninth inning, but take it he did. In conjunction with his teammates, Familia took down the Marlins, the Mets took over first and Ace Frehley took care of business in the New York Groove.
The Mets are 7-3 against National League opponents this year and overwhelming against expectations to date.
On a personal level, I was delighted to exceed expectations when I got to meet FAFIF reader and commenter Left Coast Jerry last night. As the name implies, Jerry lives across the continent but happens to be visiting this side of the map this week. He had contacted me with the idea we go to a game while he’s in his own New York groove and that sounded so splendid, we actually did it. I expected it would be a good time. It was that and then some. I thank Jerry for his company, his rental car’s passenger seat, his instructive stories of scholastic umpiring somewhere east of L.A., his fond memories of his very much with us in spirit late brother Louis, his eyewitness account of the unparalleled Met debut of Dick Rusteck and his perfect perspective when an edgy squabble broke out in our section between one of New York’s three Marlins fans and a presumed Mets loyalist who, judging by his LUNDQUIST 30 garb and demeanor, took a wrong turn on his way to ineffectively taunting Sidney Crosby at Madison Square Garden.
The Marlins guy was annoyingly giddy over the tide briefly turning in his team’s favor. The Mets/Lundquist guy tried to bring him down by informing him there were more people at Citi Field this evening than he’d see at Marlins Park all year…and there was basically nobody at Citi Field. The Marlins guy responded with his version of it’s all about the rings (baby), which is pretty sad, considering the Marlins have two and the Mets have two and none of them has been awarded for more than a decade.
I suggested to Jerry that somewhere Cardinals and Giants fans must be laughing their heads off at this exchange. Yes, Jerry said, but fans of the Cubs — a team whose last World Series was won so long ago that rings weren’t yet awarded to champions — would probably be jealous of all of us.
Hostilities simmered down as quickly as they’d been inflamed. Neither of our ammunition-deprived combatants stuck it out to the end. But we did. And the Mets did. And they gave us the idea they might continue to do so.
Better reattach those boxes to those pocket schedules. We might actually need all 162 of them this year.
The Mets playing a relatively ho-hum game wasn’t the worst thing in the world, after the emotion and intensity and wall-to-wall zaniness of whatever that was last night. Of course, a ho-hum game is a satisfying thing provided you win. Which the Mets did rather handily.
Some quick takes and then we’ll get on to the thing that’s been on my mind since last night:
- The Phillies are not just a tire fire, but a tire fire visible from space. They can’t really do anything well and have years yet to go of elephantine contracts sitting on their collective chest. Chase Utley remains a consummate pro, silly bunt attempt aside, and the same goes for Carlos Ruiz. But the rest of the roster … man oh man. Well, OK, Odubel Herrera looks like a keeper — the guy can hit and has some jump in his step that’s sorely lacking elsewhere in the lineup. He’s a Rule 5 draftee playing center after being a second baseman in the Rangers’ system, which is very Phillies, but it just might work out. Certainly the Phillies have nothing to lose — if there’s a team that afford to carry an out-of-position Rule 5 guy all year, it’s this one.
- Put a big “it’s the Phillies” asterisk on this one, but my favorite Met Jon Niese managed to contain his Nieseness despite various teammates trolling him. The sixth was particularly cruel: Niese gave up a leadoff single but then coaxed a double-play ball from Cameron Rupp … which Ruben Tejada promptly muffed. So Niese got another ground ball from Ben Revere, which Lucas Duda turned into a perfectly acceptable fielder’s choice, leaving runners on the corners. Niese then got a comebacker from Andres Blanco (I don’t know who the hell these guys are either), so he whirled and threw it to … a horrifying Human Centipede made up, somehow, of both middle infielders. Tejada was there and pointed in the right direction, but Daniel Murphy decided to involve himself, snapping the ball practically out of Tejada’s mitt and reorienting himself away from third to complete the double play. Call it your routine 1-
6-4-3 double play, and be kind the next time a Met pitcher seems wary of throwing to second.
- Lucas Duda is going to have a monster year. Duda just looks confident this year in a way he really never has before, whether it’s picking pitches to drive or fielding his position. He was the player I most wanted in my fantasy league this year, but missed out on because I somehow forgot when Draft Day was. (Um.) My loss is someone else’s gain; I don’t know what’s going to happen this year but I’m pretty sure watching Lucas will be fun.
- Poor Rupp. The Phils’ catcher lost a ball in the dirt at home plate, which rolled between the feet of home-plate ump Dan Bellino, who lingered at home and perfectly blocked Rupp’s view while Eric Campbell eventually strolled down to second. I imagine catchers have actual nightmares about this exact scenario — it’s the backstop version of realizing you forgot to drop a class and the final is today, except it actually happened to Rupp. Jeepers.
On to the Met Who Wasn’t There. Call it early-season Pollyannadom, but perhaps we’ll look back on the moment David Wright removed himself from the game as critically important to this season. Wright will always be known as the guy who played forever with a broken back, so you probably had the same reaction I did when he came off the field: Oh God, he must be really hurt. (Followed immediately by Who the hell is gonna play third?) It was odd that Wright then seemed fairly mobile, but that’s the good part. Two years ago Wright treated a pulled hamstring like he generally treats every injury that isn’t a severed limb, which is to say he ignored it. He quickly did more damage and was out seven weeks. An absence stretching that long would almost certainly be a death blow to our fragile hopes, but losing Wright for three weeks seems survivable. Like a lot of guys who aren’t as young as they used to be, David may be realizing that sometimes playing smart is better than playing hard, not just for him but for everybody else too.
Here’s something to think about as we navigate 2015: With the Mets’ Opening Day roster all having entered service, there have now been 989 men to play for the franchise. (Not counting nine ghosts, one inaugural Met draftee sent elsewhere before Opening Day ’62, spring-training flyers, etc.) No. 989 was reliever Sean Gilmartin; who will be No. 1,000?
And will anybody but us notice? Clip-n-save this and play along!