Closers blow saves.
It's what they do, all of them. (Even you, Lidge — regression to the mean is going to be a bitch.) They have bad games, bad luck, miserable stretches in which they lose their feel for their pitches and get pounded for the equivalent of a start or two, only for the closer “a start or two” means three or four wins gagged up over an agonizing week to 10 days. This information ought to be affixed to the closer's picture on the Diamondvision, like the label on a pack of cigarettes: WARNING THE SURGEON GENERAL HAS DETERMINED THAT WATCHING CLOSERS LEADS TO PERIODIC DISAPPOINTMENT AND DESPAIR AND HAS BEEN SHOWN TO CAUSE SECONDHAND DISAPPOINTMENT AND DESPAIR IN CHILDREN.
Everything came out all right , thank goodness, despite Frankie Rodriguez throwing ball after ball and slipping on the mound and repeatedly going to the curve on 2-0 and doing something to antagonize Bill Welke, who wasn't wrong but was sure awful picky, particularly since Brandon Phillips was doing the kind of assheaded thing that doesn't usually inspire umpires to check for dotted i's and crossed t's in the rulebook. (When baseball is played this stupidly this consistently by a team, you just know you'll find Dusty Baker somewhere on the premises.)
Stupid or not, it was all terrifying, down to Laynce Nix's cloudscraper (add the stray “y” for “yikes”) turning Ryan Church around and sending Carlos Beltran drifting slowly back to and then into the warning track, you weren't sure whether in confidence or dismay. Don't say I didn't warn you when one of those doesn't stay in, and K-Rod is ridden by the ghosts of Billy Wagner and Braden Looper and Armando Benitez and John Franco and everyone else initiated into the Brotherhood of Boo at one point or another, which is to say all of them.
Though perhaps there were other ghosts afoot. Certainly the mound was haunted. Mike Pelfrey was awful, Edinson Volquez wasn't much better, Mike Lincoln and Pedro Feliciano took aim at their own feet in a rather pathetic shootout at the Oy Vey Corral, J.J. Putz got cuffed about a bit, and then it was time for Frankie's drama. (Arthur Rhodes, of course, was serenely untouchable as usual. Please keep him out of the NL East come summertime.)
Yes, once upon a time this looked like a thoroughly encouraging Met performance, Pelfrey aside, what with Red fielders crumpling in the vague vicinity of balls, Luis Castillo and Brian Schneider saving Big Pelf's bacon with an awfully nice play by two generally derided players and Carlos Delgado launching a ball that might actually have landed in Kentucky. But by the time the four-hour mark loomed, this was one to close your eyes and endure, like the banshee shrieks of the Lady Fan from Hell. (Thanks for pointing her out, Keith — once you did that I would tense up every five seconds waiting for her to do it again.) Would it be a wipe-your-brow game that you could excuse as a win with some extra dramatic tension? Would it be a killer loss to cast an early-season pall over 2009? Turned out to be the former, but we all know in a lot of alternate universes it was the latter.