Maybe you've heard: We supposedly have an easy schedule the rest of the way. Four with the Cubs, yeah, but they could well have wrapped things up by then, and the rest is all the dregs of the National League East.
Well, beyond the elementary fact that we're Met fans and so never assume anything is gift-wrapped for us, we know better. There can be no tougher opponent than a team that's out of it and is sending out young players trying to earn their spurs for next year — pitchers you've never seen and a lineup of guys handed the added incentive of a chance to derail someone else's postseason aspirations. The Nationals and Marlins played a key role in sending us to our doom in 2007, and the Braves may have been eliminated tonight but they still have Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones, which is nightmare fuel enough. Whatever the standings say, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to see all those WSHs and ATLs and FLAs awaiting us. (Same warning applies for the Phils, about whom more in a moment — they've got essentially the same schedule, except their four-spot comes against the Brewers.)
For three and a half innings tonight, it was like a bad dream of September 2007. There was David Wright battling himself, Oliver Perez pitching like a spooked horse, and the Nationals rising up in indignation in the top of the fourth after the Mets took a 5-2 lead. Walk, strikeout, single, single, single, single, single, single, walk and finally a merciful but awfully late GIDP. While first Oliver and then Nelson Figueroa ducked and covered, there was Anderson Hernandez trying to prove to us that he could too hit, and Lastings Milledge looking for vengeance, and Ryan Zimmerman back from the dead and looking far too alive for my tastes, and the horrid Aaron Boone and various Anonynats and I swear they were hitting for about two days. 5-2 Mets turned into 7-5 Nats, and only the absence of Willie Randolph standing at the dugout railing like Captain Ahab assured me that it wasn't, in fact, 2007.
But you know what else was different?
Brian Schneider led off the bottom of the fourth with a single.
Seems like a little thing, but it mattered: Rather than looking unmanned and undone, the Mets came right back, putting together a rally on two singles and a groundout to tie the game. Yes, Fernando Tatis popped up with two outs and the bases loaded, but the counterpunch was enough to send the demons away.
OK, so in the top of the fifth the Nats retook the lead against an ineffective Brandon Knight. Guess what? Damion Easley led off the bottom of the fifth by drawing a walk. That didn't lead to a run, but, again, it was enough to serve as an exorcism. The Mets weren't panicking, but working good counts and turning in good at-bats. And eventually, one of Manny Acta's moves backfired under that pressure: He brought in Charlie Manning to turn around Carlos Beltran and neutralize Carlos Delgado, and the first Carlos slammed a two-run homer for the lead and the second Carlos sent a mortar off the K board above the relievers' heads. 10-8 Mets, and between peerless relief and nice defense from Damion Easley and Wright (whose offensive struggles have been invisible in the field), we got it to Luis Ayala, who went 1-2-3 against the team that cast him aside as a failed mop-up guy.
Do we lose this game in 2007? Of course we do — we lost this game twice against the Nats a year ago, along with three others that were thoroughly nauseating in other ways. (Don't click those links if you've got a bad heart, a weak stomach, or both.) But that was last year: 10-8 isn't normally a thing of beauty, but it was beautiful tonight.
And maybe there's magic in that untidy score: For a few minutes later and 100-odd miles south, Matt Lindstrom got Pat Burrell to whack a 2-0 pitch to center for the final out of a 10-8 Marlins win.
None of this ensures anything — I don't need to be reminded that those 2007 Mets started September 8-1. But it ensured tonight, and that's more than enough until the next tonight.