Ninth inning, nobody out, Chipper Jones on first after David Wright kicked away a tough ground ball.
Gary — perfectly understandably, and properly — was talking about how this was the kind of game that historically had gotten away from the Mets at Turner Field.
“Fuck that ghost bullshit,” I said. “It's a new year, and this is a fucking good team.”
A few moments later, Andruw Jones smacked the ball to Reyes, and I knew it was a double play, because of course Andruw Jones wasn't running hard. Two out, Jeff Francoeur up, high fastball, and we've taken the series, ensured a winning record for one of the year's toughest road trips, and moved out to a seven-game lead. Thank you very much. *
It's been an article of faith in recent years that “this team” — whatever “this team” means in a given season — isn't afraid of the Braves, that the horrors of Turner Field and the Jones Boys and the magical expanding Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz strike zone and the Tomahawk Chop live mostly in the minds of us fans, and not in the players' skulls. I always tried desperately to believe that and somehow convinced myself that I did, right up until the point where Brian Jordan annihilated us or Braden Looper blew the save twice, when I'd realize that I'd never thought anything of the sort and had just been waiting for the headsman to show up with his ax.
I've seen the Braves lie in the weeds until midsummer too many times to get giddy, NL East April records notwithstanding, and heard too much oddly dour/swaggering early-season talk from the respective clubhouses to doubt the Braves will be the thing under the bed until our division's sun finally rises and proves them a figment of our collective imaginations. But something feels different this year, and I think I know what it is. And it's corny as all get-out: Whatever this year's crop of Mets believes about the Braves/Mets rivalry or Turner Field is a lot less important than the fact that this team believes in itself.
Chipper comes off the DL, takes Pedro deep and puts them back in the game? That's OK, just keep dealing and keep the pressure on their pen. The closer gets given a big lead and somehow puts the tying run on base with an old Met hero at the plate in enemy colors? Hey, bear down, do your job, we'll get home safe. The third baseman boots a ground ball with the thinnest possible margin for error and the meat of their order coming up? Get another ground ball, we'll see what happens this time.
The walls are bleeding, there's an evil face in the fireplace and the batboy keeps twitching his finger and croaking WURDNA? Shine a flashlight that way, stick with me and fear no darkness.
* OK, right after the ghost comment I did turn to Emily and say, “If Andruw hits a walkoff I'm gonna have this TV off before he reaches first base,” but that's just sensible, like one-handing away a big Band-Aid that's covering six inches of leg hair. My point stands.