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485 Unexpected Feet

That’s what it took to beat the Rockies tonight — 485 feet of offense, in two equally unexpected doses. First came Damion Easley’s 400-foot drive into the bleachers with two outs and two strikes, a wonderfully ridiculous bit of theater (Down! To! Their! Last! Strike!) from the last Opening Day Met to crack the 2007 record books. And then Endy Chavez, somehow dropping a croquet mallet on a pitch at his feet and guiding it along that perfect, oh-so-hard-to-find line bisecting the pitcher and the first baseman, with the second baseman too far back to do more than bear panicky witness. Eighty-five feet worth of drag bunt, and one marvelously entertaining win [1]. I particularly liked the way, on the replay, you saw that Ryan Speier’s desperate little heave had made it past Todd Helton’s glove and wound up rolling companionably alongside Endy, like a faithful dog curious to see what kind of neato adventure would be coming up next.

What came before was admirably succinct, if frustrating — both El Duque and Aaron Cook are the kind of pitchers who, when right, leave guys going back to the plate shaking their heads, feeling like they’ve been less overmatched than somehow unlucky three or four times in a row. If not for Shawn Green’s proximity, Carlos Beltran probably would have caught Troy Tulowitzki’s drive to the right-field fence — but then nobody who remembers pleading for Beltran and Mike Cameron to get up from the outfield grass in San Diego will ever fault Beltran for not catching such a ball. (And my goodness, the arm on Tulowitzki! He threw Reyes out on a slow bouncer like it was no big deal, and went in the hole to get Wright dead to rights on a play the umpire blew. Next year he’ll get that call.)

Extra-inning games always make sense after they’re over; when matters are final, the stops and starts somehow add up to a perfectly logical arc. At the time, though, you’re left wondering what flavor of free baseball you’re going to get. Will it be the dull grinding marathon that ends when a manager finally finds a dud in his clip of relievers? One that falls off the rails with some horrific inning that makes people do a double-take looking at the box score the next day? (7-1 … in 12?) One with lots of blown chances that leave you thinking no one deserves to win, or one of those knuckle-gnawers in which a runner on second with two outs gets you up off the couch to yell and clap?

And who’ll be the hero? You always wonder: One of the guys clicking through their lineup, or your lineup, or one of the bench guys left to be seen, leaving fewer and fewer candidates as the game rolls along? David Wright finally breaking through? Jose Reyes scampering around first and offering rapid-fire claps after a winning hit? Ramon Castro, the man brought in on the double-switch? Two batters before Endy I was struck by the symmetry of David Newhan finishing what Easley had started, a victory for the new Mets. (Nope. Too easy.) Or maybe it wouldn’t end so well. Maybe it would be Helton reminding you he’s not quite gone into that good night yet, or Matt Holliday telling you why fans in the NL Central already know his name, or Chris Iannetta bracketing Tulowitzki in a triumph for Rockie rookies.

Nope, none of the above. Easley and Endy and after all of the above, it ended so easily.