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Zen and the Art of First Place Maintenance

It was another great game, I suppose, but even noble vintages can become a surfeit after enough bottles have been sampled.
Roger Angell [1] on Game Seven of the 1986 World Series

We’re not exactly in Ho-Hum, Another Win territory [2], but after a weekend like last weekend [3] and a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning like Tuesday night [4]/Wednesday morning [5], Wednesday night’s exciting and gratifying Mets win [6] was practically routine.

Would you believe routinely intriguing?

A mysterious entity wearing No. 59 and making his Major League debut quivered all over the mound, walked the ballpark, was done in by his second baseman’s wide wickets, gave up three runs right away.

Would you believe it was no big deal?

No, it wasn’t especially encouraging to watch Alay Soler’s first wave of pitches defect from the strike zone, but these are the 2006 Mets we’re talking about. They’ve been known to fall behind, but they hardly ever fall apart.

In other years, maybe even other weeks, I wouldn’t have been sailing on calm seas with Soler, but the top of the first wound up no more confining to him than Cuba did — he got out of it. And as he was rescuing himself, his teammates rescued him right back.

“All it’ll take is a run here,” I thought in the bottom of the first. Let’s just get a marker on the board and we’ll be back in it. As has become his custom, Carlos Beltran left his mark, and it was 3-1.

I won’t say “and that was that,” because didn’t Jeremi Gonzalez settle down in the second on Friday only to implode in the third? I still hadn’t seen more than one inning out of Soler and I know I saw Randolph use every reliever from Darren Oliver to Danny Frisella less than 24 hours earlier and the Phillies still had the makings of a threatening street gang, but I wasn’t consumed with angst. Not because “it’s just a game” — I’m not that Zen, and not because “it was in the bag” — I’m not that zany. It was more like, these are the Mets. They’ll be fine.

And, like Soler after the first, they were. Those who you’d expect (Wright, Reyes) to deliver, delivered. Those who you’d like to deliver (Woody atoning for that error, Valentin with a tremendously timely sac fly) arrived in thirty minutes or less. While Pat Burrell felt compelled to remind us why he presumably named his daughter, his son and his three favorite hamsters Shea, he didn’t constitute an emergency. A 4-4 tie late? So we’ll break it. David Wright got a corner of the Sports Illustrated cover this week but the jinx fell out with the subscription cards. Mets 5 Phillies 4.

Aaron Heilman, current and future bullpen anchor, held ’em. Billy Wags then closed ’em like bleeping Saturday [7] never bleeping happened. Maybe it bleeping didn’t.

A come-from-behind, marvelous-rookie-debut, contributions-from-everywhere, fireman-dousing-old-team, one-run win over our closest rivals? In the right circumstances, those are the ingredients of a classic. For the 2006 New York Mets as we’ve gotten to know them of late, it was just another very good night at the ballpark.