The scoreboard presented a fact all through Saturday's game: the Mets were beating the Marlins. But my considerable gut told me different: the Mets are in trouble.
This is what this season and this September have come down to — feeling the game instead of following it. Even though the Mets led and were never in anything remotely resembling trouble against the Marlins, I never watched or listened calmly, not for a single batter, not until the 27th Marlin out was recorded.
The truth is the Mets won easily; that's a fact. The truthiness of the matter — and isn't that what Stephen Colbert has been teaching us to feel for two years? — is nothing feels easy anymore.
That a problem? Only in that it reflects the state of the Mets heading into their final eight days of the regular season, hopefully not their final eight days of 2007 baseball altogether.
Devoid of context, Saturday gave us a glorious game, featuring the strikeout stylings of Oliver Perez, a power burst by the almost but never quite forgotten Ramon Castro and some fairly Valuable David Wright action. Moises Alou continues to set the Mets' hitting streak record and the Mets have something that is technically a winning streak.
All I could do, for the most part, was count down from 27 to 1 and cross every digit that flexes that Ollie was up to a complete game or the modern-day equivalent: an eight-inning masterpiece. It's both the truth and the truthiness that says relying on the Mets' bullpen to not lose a Mets' win is very, very dangerous these days.
Total props to the Damned Duo of Guillermo Mota and Scott Schoeneweis from Friday night for bailing their team out after a lengthy rain delay (and after Pedro Martinez bailed himself out with those frozen-custard strikeouts of Cody Ross and Miguel Olivo). They reversed a biblical flood of bad fortune, no doubt about it. But do you expect anybody in this pen — those two in particular — to replicate such competence on consecutive days? That's why I was rooting for Randolph and Peterson to forget this is 2007 and pretend it was 1968 when it was still legal to send a starter out to begin the ninth.
Failing that, the best we could hope for in these Wagnerless times was Heilman, a five-run lead and a lousy three outs. The most frightening image of this game was the recurring shot of the Mets' bullpen: all those sorry pitchers lingering on directors' chairs set up down the third base line; it looked like a casting call for the gates of hell. Heilman struggled to throw 24 pitches but escaped the fire down below. It was only the five-run lead that made me confident he wouldn't do us in. And I consider myself a solid supporter of Aaron Heilman.
Tim McCarver (who is a back spasm to listen to when not leavened by the genial grace notes of Ralph Kiner) did echo a point that had been hatching in my head these past couple of days, that this is not the way you want to go into a postseason. Just get to the postseason, of course, and then we'll quibble, but boy…what a mess in terms of health this roster is. Beltran was out there despite the bruise to the knee he took Friday. Delgado rushed back at probably well less than 100 percent. Lo Duca's been hanging in there with a battered hand. Green was hit today. You can hear Castillo's knees barking through the television. Alou is always one stiff breeze from dismemberment. If you can't admire this team for the way it's been playing, at least admire that many of them are playing at all.
They are on the field, they are trying and, for two straight days, they are succeeding. It should feel good. Most I still feel anxiety. It's so different from early in the season when the Mets would be trailing by some disturbing margin and I'd think, “all we gotta do is get a coupla guys on.” These days I look at a five-run lead over a last-place team and wonder how we can possibly avoid blowing it. The truthiness — the feeling surrounding this club — is still quite shaky.
Good thing the standings reflect only the truth.