Maybe I'd just gone numb, but a couple of weeks ago it seemed to me that the Mets at least stopped losing in horrifying ways and began losing in quiet, mundane ways. Not that it ultimately mattered to the bottom line — for we the faithful it was kind of like being a lobster placed in water that was gradually brought to a boil instead of being hurled into something already bubbling and hissing — but it sure felt less traumatic. I'd even come to feel gentler towards this batch of dog-eared, hopeless players. Yeah, they'd been incompetently assembled and stupidly led and made lots of dopey mistakes, but they'd also been hurt and unlucky, and wasn't that a shame.
But then you get games like tonight's, and all you want is for it to hurry up and be Monday already. After games like tonight's, I don't need my final glimpse of green grass on the home field, or a last “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” or baseball that really matters to me. After games like tonight's, I just want the embarrassment and anger to be taken away until I've built up six months of desperately needed emotional callus.
We turned the game on late, vaguely shamefaced about such a basic final-week lapse, and saw to our shock that the Mets had a 1-0 lead, the bases loaded and nobody out. Of course they converted none of those runners, causing to me to emit my first burst of language that's not supposed to be uttered in front of six-year-olds. Of course Mike Pelfrey looked great, surrendered a first hit to the goddamn pitcher on a broken-bat floater, then proceeded to give up the lead on a flurry of genuine hits.
And of course the Mets spat the bit in spectacular fashion. Bases loaded for Brian Schneider, who at least had lined to right for the final out of the first. This time he pops meekly to Ryan Zimmerman in foul territory. Up comes Jeremy Reed, one of the least useful Mets in a season that's seen stiff competition for the title. Reed saws his bat in two on a soft little liner that plops right into the second baseman's glove, giving him just time enough to double off Jeff Francoeur at first. Fantastic. Bottom of the inning, Anderson Hernandez throws away a double-play ball. Luis Castillo is so impressed with this that he tries to turn an impossible double play and throws the ball into the dugout. The Nats lead. The incredible thing, watching the Mets continue to impersonate major-leaguers, is that they ever could have trailed.
Understanding this, the real surprise of the 9th inning is why I wind up surprised. Cory Sullivan strikes out fishing against Mike MacDougal, who's one of those guys whose stuff makes you wonder why he's bad. Angel Pagan singles. Luis Castillo gets called out on a questionable third strike, but — to quote my favorite aphorism not yet shared with Joshua — when you're going horseshit they fuck you. Then it's David Wright, who strikes out haplessly, leaving us to once again worry about what his future holds.
Wait a moment, something's not right there. I think I programmed that last bit as a key combination sometime this summer. Sorry about that! Let me try again!
David Wright rockets a drive up the gap, clearly ticketed for somewhere beyond Elijah Dukes' reach. Dukes races for the fence, flings his glove out desperately, crashes into the edge of the scoreboard, flops on the ground — and lifts up the ball nestled gently in his mitt.
Emily, face down in bed beside me, offers a little sub-covers mutter of woe and pity and bitter amusement. I neither move nor make a sound. Dukes and his teammates frolic in the outfield like puppies. I stare at the TV. The replay shows Wright rounding first, eyes fixed on right-center. He slows to a halt, without expression. In the background of the shot, a National clambering over the dugout rail is overcome by glee and tumbles butt-first to the turf. I shut off the TV and wait to be told this year is finally over and I can go.
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