No worries, blog partner. I couldn't hear you and you couldn't hear me, but we both knew that the other guy was yelling happy things.
OK, tonight's game wasn't quite epic enough to deserve this post's title. But it was a satisfying game for any baseball fan whose tastes run to pitchers' duels, but likes a bit of everything else on the side. If you're taking someone to their first baseball game, you hope for one like this.
Pitching? Why yes. El Duque was vintage El Duque (vintage in this case possibly referring to the 1940s, but that's OK), rising to repeated occasions and getting pushed across the 119-pitch finish line by a revved-up crowd. Baseball is a marvelous game on TV, but TV can't capture how dramatic the difference in speeds between a fastball and a change or a curve is. El Duque's mix of fastballs, curves, sliders and whatever else he might make up on the spot was great fun to watch, with his punchout of Eric Chavez on a not-over-the-speed-limit curveball the highlight. Even Chavez smiled and shook his head. Joe Blanton, on the other hand, didn't look like much at the beginning — he's on my fantasy team but I'd never seen him live, so I was startled to look out at a pudgy guy with a ridiculous chin beard and a little hitch in his delivery. But Blanton put on a clinic of his own.
Controversy? Indeed, though it was of the slapstick variety. I would not want to be on the same baseball field as Paul Lo Duca when he loses his temper, but from a safe distance in the stands it's immensely entertaining — he literally looks like a cartoon character, with his eyes bulging and his eyebrows reduced to perfect downward slashes that wouldn't look out of place on an emoticon. Tossing his gear wasn't enough, of course — the shin guards had to follow, along with the chest protector, which I'm surprised he didn't rip apart with his teeth or light on fire after it got hung up on the dugout railing. What actually happened with Marvin Hudson? I dunno, but it is not a contradiction to say that I love Lo Duca and also bet it was his fault.
Storylines? Oh yes. The only question was which one would emerge as dominant, leaving the others reduced to subplots. Would it be the Redemption of Carlos Delgado? The Start of the Delgado Watch? The Object Lesson in Anger Management for Lo Duca? No, it was The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Travis Buck. With Lo Duca/Ramon Castro struck out, Beltran hit a sharp single to left, Buck came up firing, and Ricky Ledee was just out at the plate, prompting this exchange.
Greg: What good is Ricky Ledee if he isn't fast?
Jace: Ricky Ledee needs a lot more than just being fast to be good.
So to open the 9th Ramon Castro somehow doubles off Santiago Casilla after being made to look silly on two sliders, which would be great, except it's Ramon Castro, who might get lapped by continental drift rounding the bases. So a pinch-runn — oh yeah, we can't pinch-run, because we're out of catchers. So they walk Beltran and Wright hits a little flare to right, where our old friend Travis Buck has now moved. If Buck plays the ball on a hop, the movement of crust and magma will migrate Castro only as far as third. It'll be bases loaded and none out for Delgado — which may seem like just delaying the inevitable, but the way Delgado's night has gone, he'll either hit into a triple play or get a hanging curve and drop his own bat. But Buck makes a foolhardy dive for the ball, it gets behind him, and even the supercontinent of Ramongaea can drift home.
The other nice part of tonight was the company. As Greg noted (keep reading after this post), he and I got to go in person, stopping off first to see if Donovan's Pub really has the best burger in New York City. (My verdict: Very satisfying burger, but doesn't top Shake Shack.) And we enjoyed taking in the game with Ray from the sublime Metphistopheles, making his first trip to Shea in 16 years. And, on the way out, Ray and I ran into Mark from Mets Walkoffs and Other Minutiae (after a walkoff, no less), making for an impromptu blogger summit beneath the 7 platform.
Good companions, good pitching, perfect weather, some melodrama and the joy of winning two in a row for the first time in forever. What more could a Met fan want?