My moment of clarity — or what passes for such for the likes of me — came during the fourth inning of yesterday's rain-shortened Met victory, alongside Greg and Stephanie and Emily and Joshua.
Mets up 2-0. Rain coming down steadily and worse rumored to be on the way. Three Nats outs required for an official game. Three Met outs required to begin working on those three Nats outs. So swing those bats, boys! Runs are always a good thing, but time has joined the Nationals on the enemies list.
Easley singles on a 2-2 count, the seventh pitch of his at-bat.
Castro works the count to 2-1 and drives a ball to left-center.
The fans stand up. The apple goes up. I scoop Joshua up so he can see. Home run!
All right boys! 4-0. Now. The rain. The rain is coming down in sheets. Up in the Cliche Factory, buckets are being put on the Descriptions of Weather conveyor. Cats and dogs are being assembled for possible deployment. Let's get in the dugout and get Maine back out there.
Gotay swings at the first pitch…
… and singles!
It's sacrilege to say it, but this may be too much of a good thing. There is no one out. We need outs, even those of our own making. I lean over Professor Joshua to mention something along these lines to Greg. He gives me the gimlet eye he reserves for when I'm mucking around with baseball's karmic third rail and tells me we don't assume things. He is right, of course. I am still worried.
Maine sacrifices Gotay to second on the first pitch.
An out! And an efficient out at that!
Reyes works a 2-1 count and grounds out.
Milledge works out a walk after a seven-pitch at-bat that takes about a week — a very wet week. Billy Traber is done for the day.
And during the pitching change, it hits me: The Mets are playing like the complete opposite of the flat, lead-assed team I've just buried in a volcano of postgame angst. They're working counts, getting good pitches, pouncing on wounded pitchers, and doing all the things that we associate with 2006, not 2007. Except they're doing it at the worst possible time. Where's Moises Alou hitting the first pitch into a double play when it might actually be useful?
Sitting under the overhang of the mezzanine listening to Joshua declaim about baseball and watching the rain fall as Chris Schroder warms up, I know what's going to happen: The Mets are going to have a big inning, doing all the things I've recently accused them of no longer doing, only they're going to take so long doing it that the umps will finally signal for the tarp. Conditions won't improve, the game won't be official, and none of it will matter. Their own rally will be the killer.
I'm distracted from the abyss opening beneath our feet by the fact that loungey jazz piano is playing over the Shea PA. That takes me a minute before I realize that the pitcher's named Schroder. Ha, that's actually kind of funny. As my wife puts it, “the trained rats made a joke!” (It's long been Emily's contention that the music choices, out-of-town highlights and scoreboard factoids are chosen by trained rats pushing levers — makes perfect sense to me.)
The game finally resumes in increasingly underwater conditions. The folks in the right-field Dream Seats have a canopy to keep them dry. The canopy for the left-field Dream Seats is broken or nonexistent; those fans are struggling to cover themselves with some sort of tarp. Guess those are the Bad Dream Seats. Back to my own unfolding bad dream, where Wright continues the Mets' ill-timed display of patience by coaxing a 3-2 count out of Schroeder. (I now have “Linus and Lucy” stuck in my head, possibly for the next week.)
Gotay and Milledge break and Wright singles on a 3-2 pitch. Gotay scores, Milledge to third.
5-0! But arrgggh! This is now a 30-pitch inning.
Delgado flies out to right on the second pitch. Whew!
You know the rest. Maine set the Nats down in order to make things official (though a long opening at-bat from Tony Batista had me on edge) and my bad dream vanished like the morning mugginess did in the rain. The only sad thing about the day was that Joshua didn't get a chance to run the bases, a reversal he accepted philosophically in large part because Emily and I had begun lowering expectations at breakfast time. But that's OK. The kid'll get another chance to run the bases. And despite my doubts following Saturday's doubleheader, the Mets ran them just fine.
Postscript: It was great fun listening to my four-year-old instruct Greg about this thing called baseball. Greg did his part kindly and admirably, listening respectfully and peppering Joshua with questions, which he was thrilled to answer. My proudest moment was when Greg asked Joshua who the fastest Met was and he passed up the crowd-pleasing easy answer to reply, “Carlos Gomez is the fastest Met — but he's hurt right now.” (Heck, this might be my proudest moment as a father.) The funniest moment? I interrupted their colloquy to warn Joshua about the possibility that the game might be called before it was official, and started explaining what needed to happen for an official game. I knew I'd got something wrong when Greg suddenly went rigid and looked miserable. A quick backtrack with the help of my blog brother (home team doesn't need to complete the fifth if ahead … duh, Jace) and Joshua's baseball education continued along the right path. As did the day and, perhaps, this confounding season.