Just enough magic to make Sunday worthwhile.
After the Phillies came back on the Braves after the Braves came back on the Phillies, and as Roy Oswalt earned his every penny, I thought we were going to be stuck on 12 as the day grew late. Then I discovered there was a second game to be played at Citizens Bank and listened as the Braves were kind to win for our betterment (not to be confused with what used to be their Betemit).
The subpar Braves sticking it to the mediocre Phillies means what was 12 is now 11 and we continue to spend each night in rapture. Beyond the dedigitizing of the magic number, we were rewarded in other ways.
• Carlos has a bruise, nothing more. Willie said he could play tomorrow. He won’t, but the point is he’s apparently close to OK.
• El Duque, the third lame and/or halting Met to return in three days, looked unhittable…often because he kept missing the strike zone but also because he’s El Duque. Maybe he was shaking off the rust or maybe that is El Duque at this point, finding what he has to find to retire as many as he needs to. Oswalt simply retired more at the right junctures (though we did record 300% more hits than Houston).
• Cliff is making a bid to be Cliff again. Got short-circuited on two nice Astro fielding plays but is hitting the ball well. I hope that somehow inspires the pressing Shawn Green.
• Oswalt suffocated a lineup that included Mike DeFelice catching and Chris Woodward playing third. He’s a very good pitcher, but should our paths cross next month (I kinda doubt it given the Houstons’ stubborn insistence on not hitting), the plan calls for Beltran, Lo Duca and Wright in the lineup. I’ll take my chances.
Even with our Sunday snooze, we almost pulled it out. I thought we might blow it Friday and came a Beltran heartbeat away from doing that Saturday. Two of three in enemy yahoo territory is sufficient. This 4-2 tour of time zones other than the normal one (nothing outside EDT on the schedule) is fine given our elevated state.
The lead is 16, better than every Mets team has ever had except for 1986. We entered 34 over .500, which was the 1999 team’s peak position. After reaching it 7 years ago, we lost 7 in a row. That’s not gonna happen now.
I’ll accept all comers, but I’d prefer not to play the Astros again. Though they’re nothing alike, Minute Maid’s vibe recalls the Astrodome 20 years ago. I’d also prefer not to play the Phillies or Marlins — tied in our magic rear view mirror with 68 losses, so watch ‘em both. Either one would be on a ’99/’00 Wild Card roll like us if we were to see them in the NLCS. I can see the Reds being that way, too. They’re all scrappy. We were scrappy in ’99 and ’00. It worked to varying degrees. Then again, we didn’t play the 2006 us then. The Padres don’t scare me but they do have pitching and they must be doing something right. The Braves are behind six teams for a playoff spot, including the incomprehensible Giants. We play Atlanta this week and can get them started on their tee time right away.
‘Cause this is our time.
11.01: No, I Hadn’t Heard. Please, please, please stop making Gary read those insipid promos for the all-new CW 11 which is really the who-cares WB 11. Why does Channel 11 air a newscast anyway? And why does Jim Belushi have a sitcom on any channel?
11.02: I Swear, I Was Just Looking for The Magic Garden. All those years when Channel 11 was the home of that other New York-based ballclub, I always felt a touch disloyal watching it. Thank goodness Oscar Madison usually wore a Mets cap.
11.03: That Guy Blew. If not quite on the order of an ohmigod, we just traded for Willie Mays/George Foster/Gary Carter shock to the system, I was pleasantly surprised when the Mets picked up the discredited Lenny Randle and stuck him in No. 11. Randle instantly became the best everyday player on the 1977 Mets (a little like saying tater tots were the most excellent side dish in the school cafeteria) and carried none of the taint associated with his punchout of his Texas manager Frank Lucchesi. It just seemed odd the Mets of M. Donald Uptight would sanction that kind of acquisition. Maybe Grant was so busy slurring Nancy Seaver that Joe McDonald snuck it by him.
11.04: This Guy Stuck. The Mets never could rid themselves of Wayne Garrett, no matter how hard they tried. A little bit of Joe Foy in our lives, a little Aspromonte on the side, a trade for Fregosi we didn’t need… The Hot Corner Hasbeenery had a dependable client in Bob Scheffing, but every time you looked up in the early ’70s, an imported third baseman was failing and it was No. 11 standing tall.
11.05: Are They Still Loose? Second-string catchers should either be skilled or personable. In 2005, Ramon Castro was both. He practically platooned with a Hall of Fame-bound catcher, but what you heard mostly was what a cutup No. 11 was in the clubhouse. He’s off recovering from what I don’t remember. His teammates don’t seem all that morbid without him, though I imagine they will be should DiFelice be starting the third game of the National League Division Series.
11.06: But That Wouldn’t Happen. When the Mets played their first postseason series in 11 years, the 1999 NLDS, the 3rd game was started by their second-string catcher, someone who never platooned with a Hall of Fame-bound catcher. He started Game 4, too. How did that work out for Todd Pratt against Arizona? Regardless, get well Ramon. And stay strong Paul. I believe in you both.
11.07: And I Know You Believe in Me. On the very first American Top 40 countdown I ever heard, August 5, 1973, Chicago had the No. 11 record in the land with “Feelin’ Stronger Everyday”. Casey Kasem said it was knocking on the door to the Top 10.
11.08: Too Much Knowledge Was a Dangerous Thing. In 3rd grade, I taught myself to recite by rote the presidents of the United States, from Washington to Nixon. When I was a senior in college, I took a class in the presidency, one in which the professor, Dr. Levy, lumped together a bunch of first-half 19th-century chief executives as, essentially, losers: Van Buren (8th president), Harrison (9th), Tyler (10th), Taylor (12th). I smugly called out that he forgot the 11th president, James K. Polk. He shot back, “I didn’t forget Polk. I have more to say about him tomorrow.” Dr. Levy said, essentially, that Polk wasn’t a loser. His tone, however, implied that I was.
11.09: Couldn’t Get It Right. The Mets played their first game ever on April 11, 1962. They lost.
11.10: Couldn’t Get It Right Again. The Mets played their first World Series game ever on October 11, 1969. They lost.
11.11: And a Pattern Took Hold. The Mets played their first game in front of me at Shea Stadium on July 11, 1973. They lost. Dr. Levy would laugh if he remembered me at all.