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Waliant

One of the unfortunate side effects of being a Met blogger is no matter how hard you try to keep yourself from doing it, you rehearse posts in your head as the game nears its climax. Thinking about Daniel Murphy and Jose Reyes, about Endy Chavez at the plate and in the field, about David Wright in the field though not currently at the plate, about Nelson Figueroa and Duaner Sanchez and Brian Stokes and Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith and finally Luis Ayala, I kept falling back on “valiant,” which they'd surely been. One problem with “valiant” is that it's pretty shopworn; another is that it generally implies defeat. But that's where we seemed to be in the 10th, with Ayala pitching on essentially one leg, barely able to follow through and increasingly unable to hit the strike zone. There was Brad Nelson (whose physique is classically Brewer) nearly hitting one out for the tie, and the accursed Gabe Kapler working a walk, and then Rickie Weeks almost ending the game with a screamer down the line. There's no “W” in “valiant,” I thought gloomily, and you can't spell it without the “L.” I realized there was a title for a blog post in there somewhere, and was prepared for the grim task of finding it.

Except Ayala somehow wiggled free, managing to bait an overeager Weeks into swinging at a final pitch in the Miller Park dirt. Just another heart-in-the-throat New York Met win [1].

Early in the game, I told Emily I hoped Jonathan Niese didn't read the papers, because then he might not know that the Met brass were divided on whether the lefty-devouring Brewers were really the best matchup for him. They weren't: At first Niese's biggest enemy was a self-inflicted case of nerves, and he briefly got his Bannister on in tiptoeing out of trouble in the second and third, but that fourth inning was concentrated essence of ugly, a tattooing that he won't soon forget. One start isn't a career, of course, but against the Brewers Niese was more Brett Hinchliffe than Nelson Figueroa. Speaking of Mr. Figueroa, there he came riding to the rescue out of a bullpen whose members have somehow morphed from untouchables to untouchable. Figgy would have even held Niese's unlikely lead under intense pressure if the Brewers hadn't dropped their second parachute of the game into the Bermuda Triangle between short, left and center. (Fortunately, they balanced that with two horrible slides that led to key outs and amusing rants from an increasingly agitated Keith Hernandez.)

I mean, seriously: If you pegged our bullpen to begin this series with zero earned and six hits over 10 innings against that Brewer team, please tell me you're reading this after buying your Million for Life ticket. And if you did buy that Million for Life ticket (which costs $30 — isn't that too much for the suspension of disbelief required to play the lottery?), use the proceeds to buy some beers for some Mets, will ya? Like every member of that bullpen. Like Carlos Beltran, who ought to plow into the home-plate ump every night. Like Endy, delivering sac flies and rifle throws when one of each were required. Like Daniel Murphy, who increasingly deserves one just for being Daniel Murphy. Like Jerry Manuel, who left Nick Evans in when the situation seemed to call for Murphy, preserving him for later. And, of course, like Ayala, everybody's favorite one-legged temporary closer. Which, finally, brings us back to this post's odd title. Hey, if Luis Ayala can coax three strikes out of a busted groin and a vanished release point, I'm sure he can contort “valiant” until it's got the right consonant.