Watching Mike Pelfrey obliterate the Cubs and the Mets hitters do enough, I felt something I hadn’t felt since Opening Day. Or rather, I noted the absence of something.
In 2009, a late two-run lead for the Mets was called foreshadowing. In the first week of the season it was a fantasy, as the Mets weren’t much for leads. Last night, it felt like a two-run lead — a number you’d like to see larger, but still proof against disasters of the lightning-strike variety. Could this still be the Mets? Could this still be me? Not long after I started thinking about this, Fernando Tatis refused to go gentle into that good night, slamming a pinch-hit home run over the left-field wall whose height has perhaps victimized him more than any other Met. We were four runs up, that felt safe, and it was.
And yet the Mets’ position remains precarious — in fact, it grew more precarious as the night went on. Ryota Igarashi slipped on the grass, strained a hamstring — SNY showed it contorting sickeningly in super slo-mo, which I’d like to ask them to never do again — and is headed for an MRI tomorrow. (Igarashi told the Times through an interpreter that “I felt the numbness develop,” which would be an excellent title for a book about being a Mets fan in the late Aughts.) And word came that Carlos Beltran had been to the doctor in Colorado and not pronounced fit for anything except more rehab. The idea of Beltran returning in May just evaporated; June is a place-holder, and here’s betting the All-Star break creeps into conversation before too long. Meanwhile, David Wright is being eaten alive by sliders and Jeff Francoeur is once again swinging enthusiastically at bags of peanuts he spies being tossed in the Excelsior level.
Given all this, why wasn’t I panicking? Because Pelfrey’s new splitter looked superb again, and you could see its owner seemingly growing more confident by the inning. (At one point Pelfrey was smiling and bantering with the umpire and/or catcher, and I barely recognized him.) And because after nearly a year of injuries, inactivity, questions, whispers, mysteries and troubles, Jose Reyes finally got to fly around the bases again like a giddy colt. His pregame interview with Kevin Burkhardt was oddly vulnerable for a professional athlete, so it was immensely reassuring to immediately see the old Jose on the basepaths — reassuring for us, but probably far more so for him.
An MRI. No Beltran doing much of anything. Wright and Frenchy looking lost. Bay still ice cold. And yet all of a sudden I can feel myself relax. I doubt that’s justified, but I’m not inclined to talk myself out of it.