I think I started getting excited around 3 p.m. — the Mets are playing tonight! Weirdly, it was almost like Opening Day II — no, I didn't have particularly high hopes, not after the torrent of injuries and bad luck and craptacular baseball that was the first half of 2009, and not after Omar Minaya brought that first half to a thudding halt by making a jaw-droppingly stupid trade. (Yes, I advocating trading Ryan Church. I don't remember advocating trading him for a player who is quantifiably worse in every measurable capacity except birthdate, though.) But still, this is baseball — take it away for 72 hours and I was a wreck no matter what the standings say. They're the Mets, and if I can watch them play baseball I will, even if I suspect that baseball will wind up being painful to watch.
So I was happy at 3 p.m. Heck, by 5 p.m. I was thinking that they do have a pretty soft schedule, and by 6 p.m. I was thinking good thoughts about Angels Pagan and Berroa, and by 7 p.m. we practically had the division won. Six-and-a-half out, so what? That's nothing that can't be cured by a 12-game winning streak, or by Jeff Francoeur suddenly becoming a convert to the Church of OBP (crap, I said “Church”), or by Jose and the Carloses being rebuilt in a secret operating room by government agents. (STRONGER! FASTER!) Bring on the Braves!
But that feeling faded fast. Oliver Perez got through the first with unaccustomed rapidity as Joshua and I watched. The kid was pleased, but I shook my head, muttering that two of those outs had gone awfully far. Being proved right within three pitches by Yunel Escobar and Garret Anderson might have given my son newfound respect for me, but I would have been happier if he'd gone to sleep thinking his dad was sure a pessimistic bringdown.
Oliver pitched tolerably; these days that's grounds for optimism. It was somewhat cruelly ironic for him to start the second half against Derek Lowe, who's morphed from The Pitcher Who We Sensibly Didn't Want to Pay $15 Million When He's 40 to The One That Got Away and Left Us Watching Fuckin' Oliver Perez. Honesty and the fact that you can check compel me to admit that I thought paying Lowe that much for that long would have been nuts and bringing back Oliver was an acceptable gamble, so I can't do more than mutter on that score. And I already bitched about Church-for-Francoeur, so let's just move on.
By the way, this blog post went through rehearsal with a lot of bitching about Brian Schneider and his apparent inability to block the plate. But then Schneider made that insane, backhanded spear of an Ollieball that was headed for the backstop. I don't know how he did it; Keith was so discombobulated he said “Jesus” on the air, and so Schneider not quite doing two things at once was forgiven. Though I'm still not buying a Toyota from him or harboring any desire to see him in 2010.
Anyway, after a brief Met uprising matched by the Braves, it was down to the middle relievers, as approximately 68 trillion baseball games have been before. Whose reliever will be unlucky and/or bad first? It was ours, of course — Pedro Feliciano committing the oft-punished sin of walking the leadoff hitter, which led to Bobby Parnell against Chipper Jones and me sitting glumly in bed knowing how that would end. I've long maintained Chipper will get a standing ovation at Citi Field when he arrives for his apparent last at-bat, heralded for being a worthy enemy all these long years. Yes, but we'll also be cheering the fact that he soon will no longer be able to bedevil us. How many generations of young Met hurlers has Larry Wayne sent trudging off how many mounds?
As a final note, this game did have a vivid demonstration of how fundamentally unfair baseball can be. Pat Misch — whom I only recently stopped confusing with Jon Switzer — is pitching in the eighth. Anderson slaps a ball into the hole that Alex Cora knocks down, but it squirts away just long enough for Anderson to be safe at first. Casey Kotchman sneaks one between short and third. Greg Norton — precursor to the most depressing Mets Dash in history, now hitting under .100 — hits a well-placed changeup one-handed for a little parachute and the insurance run. Nate McLouth then hits a tracer — easily the hardest-hit ball of the inning. So of course that's the one that winds up in the second baseman's glove. Baseball, man.
Ah well. 7 1/2 back, cavalry not detectably closer, front office should be kept away from telephones and email to fend off further absurd moves. And somehow, despite all this, I wish it were tomorrow, with Mike Pelfrey and Jair Jurrjens warming up and the evening cooling down and the game just a few minutes away. Baseball, man.
The first of three AMAZIN' TUESDAYS is coming to Two Boots Tavern July 21. It will be a Mets night devoted to reading, rooting and Roger Cedeño. Get all the details here. And get your copy of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.