The bottom of the sixth Thursday night, which lifted the Mets from a desultory 6-1 deficit to a thrilling 7-6 lead, was one of the most precious half-innings you'll ever witness as a Mets fan. If it had been a ninth inning or an October inning, we'd be talking about it into eternity. If it had unfolded as part and parcel of a victory, it would be The Bottom Of The Sixth, assigned to a lower shelf among the family heirlooms, to be sure, but snug in the Upper-Case cabinet nonetheless.
I was at Shea for Buckner!
Well, I saw The Grand Slam Single!
Gosh, I didn't get to go to those, but I was at The Bottom Of The Sixth!
You were? Cool!
Within a couple of weeks, sadly, the bottom of the sixth — all lower-cased — will be mostly forgotten and it will require a detailed explanation as to what was so great about one half-inning in an aggravating extra-inning loss. To avoid the memory hole rush, clip and save the following:
The Mets were down 6-1 and it wasn't even that close.
Luis Castillo singled. Luis Castillo singled three different times. If he had singled four different times, specifically in the tenth with two on and two out and one behind, “Brother Louie” would replace “Lazy Mary” every night in the seventh, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Luis Castillo has been zipping the ball at bat and stopping the ball in the field. Without endorsing a three-year $22 million contract as a reward, he's proving the perfect addition for the final two months of a pennant drive.
David Wright reached via a lousy play by the Padre third baseman, which was appropriate because David Wright was playing goalie in an archery match at third all night.
Carlos Beltran walked. Earlier Carlos Beltran doubled in a run. The Padres wised up and fed him a ball, a strike, then three balls.
Carlos Delgado…sigh. If Carlos Delgado had been just a touch more his old self, even his old self from before he went out with the bum knee in Pittsburgh, this would have been a sweep of San Diego. Carlos Delgado didn't get a hit the entire series and we lost two of three. Still, it doesn't excuse a single boo from the heavily represented Moron Corps at Shea. In fact, there were so many morons who booed Mets that they could have been welcomed on the scoreboard. I hope they all got stuck on an escalator and nobody came to rescue them.
Moises Alou walked — with the bases loaded to make it 6-2. Could anybody have done that? From the mezzanine, I couldn't say, but I was firing aptly named throw pillows around the living room at the commencement of the season when Moises was swinging at first pitches as is apparently his wont. I thought he showed great control with the bases loaded (better control than Glavine had).
Shawn Green, spelling Milledge now that the kid has taken the vet's job, hung in there. Mock the cliché if you like, but he took good swings in his first two fruitless at-bats. This time, one great swing on the first pitch and he singled hard into right field, scoring Wright and Beltran, making it 6-4 suddenly. You could feel the momentum rising from nil to nitro the way you did if you were in this old ballpark on June 30, 2000 when the score was building from 8-1 Braves to 11-8 Mets. You could also feel so much naches for Shawn, lost in a bumpy, slumpy forest for almost three months, derided and dismissed by the Metsnoscenti and dislodged from his job for every good reason in the world. Shawn Green has taken his demotion like a pro, not even a hint of “I need ABs if I'm going to help the team” griping that many veterans would willingly let slip. Shawn knows he has sucked since June. Shawn knows he is not this team's future. Maybe Shawn knows he's no lock for this team's postseason roster if the compilation of one is required. If you have a heart, you felt just un pitsel bit good for a good guy when he singled in those two runs in the sixth.
Sandy Alomar, Jr. lined out hard to second. Didn't realize until the scoreboard mentioned it that this was Alomar's Shea debut. As a Met? No, ever. I just looked it up (in fact, I realized I almost forgot he batted in the sixth) and I see that in a Major League career that stretches back to 1988, he had played against the Mets only once, in three Interleague games in 2002 at Jacobs Field. I've got to give him and DiFelice all the credit in the world for playing the most interactive of positions on the field and handling it so well since Lo Duca and Castro went down. You've hardly caught or even faced the pitchers on what's now your staff, yet there you are, thrown into the fire. I don't know what the dynamic is (and maybe Glavine would have had a more characteristic night with a more familiar catcher), but it sure seems admirable. Though he didn't get a hit in the sixth, Sandy's foot-block of the plate in the third to deny Milton Bradley what appeared to be a sure run was one of the quieter outstanding defensive plays of the year.
Marlon Anderson pinch-hit a three-run homer. Wow…Wow…WOW! What a freaking GIFT this guy has been to the Mets since the Dodgers eschewed his services. He didn't hit home runs, at least the out-of-the-park kind, the first time he was here. He may not hit many or any more, but in this jewel of a sixth, he was the inning's platinum sheen.
Mets led 7-6. There was so much joy at Shea at that moment. After high-fiving my main man Mike, I just turned around at looked at everybody in my immediate vicinity. They were happy in ways you can forget being at a great game, or at least a great half-inning, can make you. I locked eyes with a woman behind me, off my left shoulder. I smiled widely. She smiled widely. I didn't need another high-five. Our smiles slapped palms.
What a goddamn shame we still had to get nine outs. A far bigger shame that we neglected to.