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Opportunity Pure, Simple and Cashed In

“Citi Field,” according to the 2010 Mets Media Guide, is “home to one of the longest ribbon boards in baseball.” That is most definitely not one of the Top 1,000 most interesting facts to be found in this otherwise indispensable publication. For that matter, the ribbon boards, when they’re flashing advertisements that have zero to do with baseball, are about the easiest feature to ignore in the entire ballpark. Yet Friday night, during the sixth inning, a message glowed that totally fit the moment:


Those words were paid for and posted to promote a business news and opinion cable channel, but they were uncommonly relevant to what stared the Mets in the face as they batted in a close game:

Opportunity. Pure and simple.

With one out, Jose Reyes, suddenly a three-hole hitter extraordinaire, tripled. Jason Bay, cleanup hitter more by default than merit to date, followed by doing exactly the same to put the Mets ahead 2-1. You know the last time the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the Met lineup tripled consecutively? Never. In fact, a trusted source tells me, the only time the No. 3 and 4 Met batters even tripled in the same game was in 1964, when the pairing was Ron Hunt and Joe Christopher and the triple-happy haven was Connie Mack Stadium.

Go to a Mets game and maybe you’ll see something you haven’t seen in 46 years.

That’s also about how often the Mets cash in on opportunities. Oh, exaggeration, you are amusing when we win [1], but really, a runner on third, less than two out and he is brought home with a triple? That’s fantastic. Then, a moment later, there’s a different runner on third and still less than two out? We don’t need a third consecutive triple. We just need a fly ball.

That’s scarier than it sounds, considering the batter is David Wright.

Nineteen months ago today, David Wright had a chance to deliver a sac fly that could have changed history and averted impending collapse. It was near the end of 2008, a year when Wright tied for the National League lead in sac flies. If only he had led it instead. If only he had lifted a fly ball to score Daniel Murphy from third with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth on September 24, 2008 and the score tied. Murphy had tripled, but he died there. The Mets died an inning later. Their season and stadium died four days after that.

So much death for such an ostensibly happy pastime.

David Wright has lofted seven sacrifice flies since that night of pure and simple opportunity eschewed [2], one of them, tauntingly, the very next night (generating an instant and ungrateful grumble of “Where was that last night?” from this particular spectator). Of course David tries hard, even as perception dies hard. David had driven in seven runs on sac flies since driving in none on September 24, 2008. But it’s the none that stubbornly stays with a fella.

Now, however, he has driven in eight since that fateful ninth. Wright brought home Bay with a very long fly ball that would have flown beyond a less confining outfield wall than Citi Field’s. But this, for better or worse, is Citi Field, where triples can be instantly doubled yet sacrifice flies are always appreciated.

Our new No. 5 hitter made the score Mets 3 Braves 1. It wasn’t as aesthetically exciting as what the 3 and 4 guys had just done, and it didn’t turn as many heads as No. 6 hitter Ike Davis did when he launched (and I mean launched) his first major league home run onto the Bill Shea Bridge, presumably causing a pothole in the process. Wright’s fly ball also wasn’t nearly as entertaining as Jose’s seventh-inning infield fly that befuddled Brave after Brave while triggering heretofore unseen baseball instincts in Angel Pagan who thrillingly knew enough to cross a plate that every Brave left enticingly uncovered.

But that Wright sac fly was as huge as anything else in this game, and I swear I’ll try to make it rather than the lingering sting of 9/24/08 my default man on third, less than two out, David coming up scenario. It probably won’t take, but I’ll attempt to keep it in mind.

Busy night all around, from John Maine’s spasming left elbow (leaving because of pain in his nonthrowing arm [3] — not to make light of anybody’s pain, but that sounds, on the surface, like something that would befall Steve Trachsel) to Hisanori Takashi’s seven relief strikeouts in three emergency innings to the Braves’ four errors to Frankie Rodriguez registering three slightly uncomfortable outs 24 hours after he netted five. A little something for everyone, and a lot to hope on from here.

You hope Maine’s OK.

You hope Takahashi can do something like this again though you’d prefer the occasion not present itself the same way.

You hope somebody can step in for K-Rod should a game need saving Saturday.

You hope the Braves continue to forget the finer points of the infield fly rule.

You hope Ike gets so proficient at homering to extremely deep right-center that the Citi Field engineering corps has to double-deck the BSB.

You hope triples continue to explode from the middle of the batting order now that it contains a certified leadoff man.

Finally, you hope whatever runners the Mets leave on base, they’re not left on third with less than two out, because that’s opportunity wasted, and the Mets really can’t afford much, if any, of that.

Like ribbon boards, sacrifice flies aren’t inherently interesting. But when they weave their way into one night’s successful narrative, you just have to take notice.