Bob Murphy lives. His most enduring lesson certainly does. Baseball, the original Murph told us countless times, is a game of redeeming features. Saturday night proved him indubitably and eternally correct.
Met upon Met redeemed himself at Fenway Park. They lined up like we incessant diet cola drinkers who live in a carbonated beverage container deposit state tend to do. They brought their psychological bottles and cans, all digned and dusty, to the reverse vending machine outside the proverbial Pathmark and they inserted one empty after another. Insert enough, you don't just redeem your deposits. You gain redemption.
To quote a great philosopher, “bottles and cans and just clap your hands — just clap your hands.” Coming from behind in the ninth to beat the Red Sox 3-2 is definitely worth a hearty round of applause. It's where it's at.
The Mets seem redeemed. The 0-4 Mets from Sunday to Wednesday are 2-0. The dropping-toward-.500 Mets of 2009 are suddenly stepping beyond it. The road-weary Mets have crossed the country and their winning ways have been refreshed in one of the sport's most inhospitable climes. The starter who couldn't stand up for falling down last weekend rose from the dead. The lineup and its at least five nine-hole hitters strung together enough live wood to bring home all the runs the unit as a whole would need. The defense that previously couldn't catch a break let alone a grounder caught everything in its path and some items that seemed destined to zoom on by. The closer who's ticked that he rarely gets to close got to close matters shut.
The system installed to see to it that bad umpiring could be overruled by modern technology had a redemptive flavor to it as well. When Omir Santos unleashed that lethal short swing on Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, I thought it was too much to ask for it to go out. Then I thought it was too much to ask for it to be ruled to have gone out even though it did. “We always get screwed on these calls,” I informed Stephanie who is quite aware of our track record in call-screwage. Ah, but home run replay. That's a relatively new twist on a formerly rancid cocktail of arbiter incompetence. Even Joe West can watch TV. Even Joe West and his merry men — including Paul Nauert, ball cop — could see Santos' shot landed above the magic barrier that separates homers from doubles before bouncing back to earth. It took a while, but fingers were twirled and runs were assigned.
Omir Santos: short stroke, long trot.
The bottom of the ninth never felt it would be easily resolved. First off, where in the world was Francisco Rodriguez? When we last saw him, after a simple ninth Friday, he was high-fiving the heavens and rubbing his tummy as if quite full from all the saves he's been ingesting. Did he have a bellyache or something? No, we'd learn and cringe: back spasms. Say, that doesn't sound like something you want your otherwise almost infallible closer to come down with, especially when you're missing (deep breath) Delgado, Cora, Reyes and Church. Good thing we keep a spare Putz around for moments like these, but let's be clear: J.J. Putz, whatever he was doing in Seattle all these years, is no Frankie Rodriguez. Frankie Rodriguez has been, for a quarter of a season, everything we could have fantasized about, assuming your fantasies involve uneventfully blissful ninths. Why do you think he almost never comes up in the greater Metropolitan conversation except as an OK afterthought? Because Frankie Rodriguez has done nothing wrong, and we only talk at length about those whose imperfections overwhelm us (Johan Santana not included, as Johan Santana overwhelms life its own self).
Anyway, no K-Rod, just J.J., just a little old-time Braden Looperism to start the ninth, walking fucking Youkilis (so named since annoying Johan — anybody who annoys Johan is automatically cursed) and giving up that hot shot to Bay to put runners at second and third…WHAT'S THIS? Correction: Wright comes up with Bay's liner, thankfully keeping the ball in the infield, meaning the Red Sox have only runners on first and second with nobody…WHAT'S THIS? Wright throws to second? When it squirts into right field and puts runners on second and third…WHAT'S THIS? Luis Castillo retrieves Wright's off-balance fling and plants a foot on the bag and fucking Youkilis is OUT!
OUT! HE'S OUT!
That last bit of exultation was a little unwelcome on the couch because somewhere among the throw, the nab, the foot and my unbridled reaction to all of it, Avery the Cat let his nerves get the best of him. When he does — it happens either from my sneezing or my rooting — he will do a nasty leap across Stephanie's lap, which overrides my wife's approval for a nice play because it usually means she's getting scratched. But Avery's claws did no damage, thanks to a suitably rugged pair of sweatpants. Thus, the sweetest 5-4 putout you're ever going to see remained a joyous affair.
OUT! HE'S OUT!
But there was only one out. Then, after Drew lined hard but at Pagan, there were two out. Then Lowell found a hole, and I thought here we go again, first and second at least and why is Putz putting us through this — but the steady veteran hand of Ramon Martinez plugged the hole and wisely, calmly threw to first for the ballgame while callow youths Jose Coronado, Ruben Tejada and Jonathan Malo each gained valuable experience on the farm; all that folderol is there to drive Jason crazy, but it was a very nice play at the end of a very nice game in which there was lots of fine defense by the other team, too, and loads of good pitching by both pitchers, including — surprise, surprise — Mike Pelfrey. After he struggled through 34 pitches in the first inning, our starter somehow gave up only two runs then (thanks again, Luis) and nothing for six more. Big Pelf got some big professional help from some big mind in sports psychology and stopped making with the balks already yet. Didn't think I'd be saying — one start removed from his balking thrice — nice move, Mike. But calling the doctor really was.
It was all very nice Saturday night at Fenway, save maybe for Frankie's back and the late word that he was hospital-bound from the back pain. May he find the kind of redemption the rest of us got to cash in from this game. Cloaking oneself in doom only to emerge triumphant…I'll redeem that deposit any day.
(And if unspeakably cretinous amalgamations of evil have to have a good day, it's all right, I suppose, that it comes at the expense of other unspeakably cretinous amalgamations of evil.)
No deposits, no returns, just plenty of 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.