Sorry, Luis Castillo's singles don't look like line drives in the box score. You can pretty much reverse-engineer whatever the number in the H column is back into little slap jobs or worm killers or humpbacked liners. But sometimes they're enough. Sometimes they wind up in the western side of J.J. Hardy's glove, too far for conversion into yet another Met out and yet another Met LOB, and Luis Castillo's rather thoroughly caged fury is anger enough for sweet victory.
I think I will always find it faintly ridiculous that anything the Milwaukee Brewers might do can affect the Mets. For me the Brewers will always be a team from the distant AL that plays somewhere cold and changes their uniform design too often and features guys I know are good but only glimpse once in a while on This Week in Baseball. They're the San Diego Padres at an even greater remove. Yet I find when I push past the feeling that they're in the wrong league that I'm more familiar with them than I thought and can even generalize about them fairly successfully. Like they always have vaguely anonymous but terrifying young hitters, those young hitters tend to field like they went out there with bats in their hands (with the exception of Mike Rivera and whomever Bill Hall was channeling on that nice bunt pickup), and they get a volume discount on hard-throwing red-haired middle relievers who wear plus sizes. Those are your Brewers; they've been a part of our lives for a solid decade and I suppose I ought to just get used to them. I'll keep trying.
What I can get used to, finally, is Baseball 2009 in general and the Mets playing at Citi Field specifically. This was the first night of the year in which baseball didn't seem like a novelty but a normal part of the evening — 6:45, almost time to watch the Mets. In a way that day's nicer than Opening Day, because it's the day you realize baseball's here to stay (relatively) and you can put your feet up and let the narrative of the season unfold as the spring and the summer swell in accompaniment. And this was the day I stopped trying to scout Citi Field on every pitch, staring out at its dimensions and tracking its bounces like I'm the one who has to play them. (Though didja see that ball that carried away from Castillo and had to be corraled by Church? Seems like there's a crosswind that gives balls an additional kick towards the right-field corner, doesn't it?) This was the day I started to just enjoy the game for itself, new park and all.
And after another shaky middle there was plenty to enjoy. Like the swing of Carlos Delgado, now thoroughly resurrected and possibly more dangerous than before, what with the left-field line now a target as well. Like Gary Sheffield, whose milestone moment could have been an annoying asterisk, but who won me over with his determination to learn right field as best he can even if it's an assignment he arguably shouldn't have been given. (Points also to Ryan Church, by the way, for tutoring the man trying to take his playing time.) And yes, like Luis Castillo, pudgy and underwhelming though he still is. Not even I am cynical enough to resist a well-told tale of redemption.
Speaking of well-told tales, you won't be able to resist Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.