So long as they end properly, tense, nobody-can-break-through extra-inning games are the coolest. There's the initial annoyance/delight of free baseball (emotion dependent on whether your team's the one that tied it up or the one that let it get tied), the settling in for the long haul once things aren't settled in the 10th, and then the fretful wait from the 11th until whenever things will end. You figure out the rest of the rosters in your head. You think about the tales of redemption that might fit (Bruntlett? Delgado?) and try to spin plot reversals along with the baseball gods. You figure the end is near when it isn't (Jesus, they're a hit away with Utley up) and are sure the game will never end when in fact it's about to (Schneider and Clark make meek outs to start the inning, what's the use), and the whole time you're thinking that somebody's fated to wear the laurels and somebody's fated to wear the goat horns and soon it will make perfect sense who was who, even though you can't possibly guess who will be who at the moment.
Another fun thing about these marathons (again, assuming all winds up OK) is how much of the regulation game disappears into the ether of “almost forgot about that.” Like John Maine's mostly reassuring start — he looked unfocused and gassed at the end, but it was April and an unseasonably warm night. Like Brian Schneider's rifle-armed erasure of Shane Victorino at second, which left me with my fist in the air and Victorino pop-eyed in protest. (He thought he was safe; he was out.) Like the pinball shot hit off the first-base bag immediately afterwards by Chase Utley. (In our recent nine-game stretch of martyrdom, that would of course have been preceded by Victorino being called safe, and followed by all sorts of bad things; instead Maine somehow escaped after walking the next two guys.) Like Pedro Feliciano coming in, pitching dismally, and then finding his slider in the way you devoutly hope off-kilter relievers will, while knowing they rarely do.
Where predictive powers are concerned, I was right about two things and wrong about one. First, I was right that Aaron Heilman was not going to follow Feliciano's example in righting himself. I had paused the game while rushing out to get spaghetti sauce, returned to watch Marlon's epic at-bat, then TiVo'ed too far through the commercials and missed Ryan Howard's bomb entirely. How in hell is it 3-2? I wondered, and almost thought for a crazy second that Heilman's mere presence is now worth an enemy run. (Just to make me think I really was insane, SNY then stubbornly refused to put the Phils' third run up until the end of the inning.) It's cruelly ironic that with the Mets down two starters, the reliever who'd most like to start is instead auditioning credibly to be the guy called in to catch bullets in his teeth when it's 7-0 in the second.
Next, I was wrong about what Scott Schoeneweis's arrival meant — as was most of Shea Stadium, by the reaction. Schoeneweis got the ground ball he also got in the home opener, this time with better results — and just maybe, a chance for a do-over with Met fans. HIs fist pump was uncharacteristic, welcome, and well-earned.
And finally, happily, I was right about Angel Pagan emerging as the hero. One of the occupational hazards of baseball blogging is with the game in the balance, you find yourself rehearsing posts in your head. (This post was provisionally titled “Sent Me an Angel” until the Shea Stadium A/V guys made the same musical connection.) Pagan has been easily the best story for the 2008 Mets, a minor-league hero come back wiser and, so far, much better than the player we sent away. Of course in a game like this Pagan just had to fire a sharp shot up the middle, instead of a little parachute that could have let Reyes walk home. Of course Jayson Werth just had to hurl the ball in head over heels. Of course Reyes just had to be within a whisker of an eyelash of an iota of a sliver of being out. But no matter. He wasn't; we win .
The first 2008 classic's in the books; more importantly, it feels like 2007 is finally over.