Once upon a time I liked this baseball game just fine. David Wright took Old Man Moyer convincingly deep in the very first inning for a 3-0 lead, and yesterday’s memories of dropped pop-ups and Doc Halladay and getting shellacked receded at the best possible speed. Yes, it got interesting in the bottom of the first, with solo shots by Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard off Johan Santana bringing the Phillies to within 3-2. But Santana seemed to settle down, and Rod Barajas continued his Citizens Bank domination, whacking a two-run homer to restore the Mets’ three-run lead. Jamie Moyer didn’t seem to be fooling anybody, and obviously Johan would settle down and throttle the Phils. The Mets would head for Cincinnati in first by 1 1/2, having Not Blinked and Made a Statement and Proved Something to Themselves, and all would be just fine.
Yep, that was pretty obviously what was going to happen.
This is what happened  instead.
Let’s start in the fourth inning, with two outs and Utley standing on third.
- Johan’s fourth pitch after that point was a Raul Ibanez single that made it 5-3.
- Johan’s fifth pitch was a Juan Castro single.
- Johan’s ninth pitch sent Carlos Ruiz to first via a thoroughly intentional unintentional walk.
- Johan’s 16th pitch walked Jamie Moyer, forcing in a run and making it 5-4.
- Johan’s 18th pitch disappeared into the seats, a Shane Victorino grand slam that put the Phillies on top, 8-5.
- Johan’s 21st pitch was a Placido Polanco single
- Johan’s 23rd and mercifully final pitch was an Utley home run that made it 10-5.
Hisanori Takahashi came on, but the delights of this particular game were not over.
- Takahashi’s second pitch was a Ryan Howard single.
- Takahashi’s fifth pitch — the 28th since Ibanez came to the plate with two out — was a Jayson Werth double that it made it 11-5.
And then, at last, that elusive third out, made by Ibanez. Nine two-out runs. Sitting there like a gaffed fish in front of the radio, I mused that at least one Mets fan somewhere out there must have needed an extended bathroom trip, thought to himself, “eh, two outs and it’s Johan,” and emerged some time later to assume his TV had broken. It’s always faintly shocking when a starter unravels this quickly and thoroughly, but to see it happen to Santana was almost unimaginable — and deeply disturbing.
(Update: Rewrote the conclusion, because what I wrote originally was emotional and dumb.)
And then, after that 28-pitch disaster, the Mets had one baserunner for the rest of the night. One walk. No hits. Not one.
I don’t think that says anything about character or guts or anything else. Teams go through five-inning stretches without hits. It happens. If the Mets had had their hitless spell in the beginning of tonight’s game, and come back from 11-0 to get slightly less tar beaten out of them, we’d be tempted to talk about their Never Say Die attitude. But that would be silly. So, therefore, would be trying to measure their character by snarking that their response to Santana’s getting walloped all over creation was to mount a Gandhi-esque civil disobedience campaign, minus the high moral standing. Even though it’s tempting.
So let’s just leave it at this: It sure was horrible to watch.