As I type the Diamondbacks and Phillies are doing battle in the 11th. All tied. Runner on first for the D-Backs; he got there by striking out on a wild pitch. The Mets have won their seventh straight, this one in vaguely perplexing but ultimately electrifying fashion. The night's question is if we can get within a half a game of our September 2007 tormentors, or remain poised 1.5 back.
These are good questions to have, just as hoping for a cherry atop your baseball sundae is an excellent way to spend a lovely July night. It's summer in the city and the Mets — the ragged, confounding, frustrating, enigmatic Mets — have somehow yanked themselves into a pennant race. What more could you ask for? Well, that cherry.
One of these nights, perhaps, Oliver Perez will pitch the Mets' first no-hitter on 140 pitches and eight walks. Wasn't he ridiculous? Wasn't he wonderful? He walked six. He struck out seven. He was Oliver Perez, all whirling feet and elbows and mouth gaping open and dark eyes half-wild. They were seemingly all half-wild, those Met hurlers — if I told you the Mets walked nine and faced four batters with the bases loaded, you would have figured they gave up at least five, right? But they didn't. Aaron Heilman in particular was wonderful — he carved up Willie Taveras and Clint Barmes like one of those legendary Japanese butchers whose knives pass perfectly between bones, using his fastball, slider and very occasional change-up to near-perfection. Pedro Feliciano was a bit lucky, but bore down when he needed to and got Jayson Nix to hit a high, harmless hopper to Delgado. And Billy Wagner offered the dullest and thus happiest rollercoaster ride ever — no curves, no hills, no squealing breaks, and sorry Matt Holliday, but this sign marks the 27th out and you're clearly not going to fit under it.
And then there was Damion Easley, with his lank, weathered face and deceptively sleepy demeanor. Like so many members of the oft-maligned 2008 JV, Easley is rewarding the patience given him. His odometer is fairly near that final number, but he's got more miles left in him than we could have guessed. His eighth-inning blow seemed headed for left-center, but there was Taveras racing over, closing ground disturbingly fast, but now he was slowing, straightening, and looking up helplessly at the crease in the Shea Stadium wall, hoping for a play that would never come. It was gone. And we were on our way.