It's a shame that, provided both are behaving more or less decently, players and fans don't interact more. Baseball's fun to play and fun to watch. (Of course, on a mind-bogglingly gorgeous night like tonight, sitting outside a bus station would be pretty much A-OK. But still.)
Take the bottom of the seventh. Carlos Delgado had just driven in Nick Evans to tie a loopily entertaining Mets-Braves tilt at 4-all. (As you might expect, more on that in a moment.) Now, Julian Tavarez was in and Fernando Tatis was up. He crushed a 1-0 pitch to left, where it zipped into the glove of Omar Infante a couple of steps from the fence. A young guy in the bleacher area's slot in the outfield wall had apparently been yelling something at Infante, grinning to take away whatever edge his words might have carried. Infante let his momentum carry him nearly all the way to the guy's face, brandishing the ball he'd caught. He was grinning too. It was the kind of moment you don't see enough, and it was pretty cool.
But Dame Fortune didn't agree. She began to weave her web.
We have six more to play against the Braves, so your chronicler will recite no eulogies for them, for fear of getting a little spittle in the aforementioned Mistress of Baseball's eye. Nor will you hear any triumphant braying about the prospects of the orange and blue — besides the fact that that shit's for Yankee fans, last September will keep me woof-free until CitiField's days are numbered. But it's simple truth to observe that the Mets just played one of those charmed-life series against their old foes, one in which we got every big hit, every steely-eyed at-bat and every lucky bounce while they got absolutely nothing. We're not this good and they're not this bad, but sometimes baseball rules that you are and they are — and while that's decree is in delirious effect, you enjoy every single marvelous moment.
Where to start? Well, the Braves' defense was appalling all series: Kelly Johnson looked like his glove had been replaced with a cheese grater, while Chipper had one go simply straight through his glove to extend a Damion Easley at-bat. (I swear I remember the same thing happening to us against them — perhaps with Eddie Perez hitting? And no, I haven't forgotten Mr. Infante.) But first base was the real nexus of horrors for Atlanta. Mark Teixeira is gone and Casey Kotchman, his smooth-fielding replacement, missed the final two games to be with his ailing mom (whom we of course hope is OK), leaving Greg Norton and Martin Prado to do their meager best. Prado actually made a nice play on Delgado in the seventh, only to find Will Ohman had been gazing at the proceedings in fascination from the mound and wasn't where he should be, resulting in the ball sailing wide right and the Mets tying the game. In the top of the ninth, with Prado on second, Gregor Blanco grounded to deep second, where Easley made a nifty snag — and a throw so bad it was good. Delgado had to lunge toward the coach's box to corral it, neatly blocking the view of Greg Gibson, who called Blanco out. I presume Blanco didn't argue because he was dazed from pancaking into Delgado's broad back, but what about the famously argumentative Bobby Cox? Maybe it was because he saw Prado had rounded third with an urgency generally reserved for continental drift. Bobby's been around the game long enough to know a lot of things, including the immortal truth that when you're going horseshit they fuck you.
Blanco's erasure paved the way for the ninth, and the feeling that somehow, someway, the Mets would prevail. First, at 10:03 by my clock,
Poland the Nats had actually managed a win against Germany the Phillies. David Wright was on second, having turned an 0-2 count into a 3-2 double up the gap. (I love David Wright.) The Inescapable Delgado was at the plate against Vladimir Nunez, and at 10:07, on a 1-1 count, he hit a shoulder-high liner at Infante. Dame Fortune (remember her) ooched that ball into the lights and it glanced off Infante's glove. He fell down. At that same moment, Wright had gone too far towards third and tried to reverse course. He nearly fell down, leaving the two critical players in this little drama on the ground or close to it with the game in the balance.
It was a shorter distance for Wright: He found his feet and dashed his way to a dusty belly-flop home, while Infante contemplated how the distance from left field to the Atlanta dugout had somehow morphed from 300 feet to 300 miles. If that guy from the seventh inning was still at his station, you know he gave poor Infante an earful. And I hope he did — not so much because Infante deserved it but because charmed baseball typically lasts about as long as late August imitates late May. You better enjoy both.