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The Games That Weren’t

This could have been the Angel Pagan Game. You remember the Angel Pagan Game, don’t you? It was in Washington, in May 2010. The Mets had been playing really badly on the road and had dropped into last place. Angel was first-division all the way, though. He made Nyjer Morgan look silly. He made Nyjer Morgan look like Angel Pagan used to look.

Angel drove one to the centerfield wall off that annoying ancient ex-Met junkballer Liván Hernandez who got better after leaving the Mets for whom he just kept getting worse [1]. Morgan took an ill-advised leap (and wouldn’t it have been nice if more Nationals outfielders had taken ill-advised leaps in those days?) and missed the ball completely. The ball rolled back into center. Angel then got rolling — past second, past third, just kept going. I thought he’d find a way to get thrown out at home, but Angel always could run if we weren’t always confident he could think.

SAFE! Angel Pagan was safe with an inside-the-park home run!

That wasn’t all Angel did. Angel dove once and robbed Roger Bernadina (the pain in the ass from the week before) of a bases-loaded single, or maybe more if it got by. That was the bottom of the fourth, a half-inning after Angel went “coast to coast” as Gary Cohen put it. One of the best innings any Met had had in a long time.

But then came the fifth, which was at least as astounding. That was when Angel dove again with the bases loaded and came up with THREE OUTS. Yes, a triple play! It was a little dicey in that the umps were slow to call Cristian Guzman’s sinking liner an out — which it was without much mystery. Angel could have jogged in and tagged everybody and made it an unassisted triple play, murdering the ghost of Eric Bruntlett [2] in the process, but when you rooted for the Mets in those days, you were just happy if Angel Pagan caught the ball and didn’t throw it in the wrong direction [3]. He actually did overthrow second, but the Nats were even slower on the uptake than the umps. It was a weird 8-2-6-3 triple play (Henry Blanco backed up the bad throw and Jose Reyes made an unnecessary relay to first), but it was a triple play. All triple plays are perfect in the retelling.

What a game for Angel Pagan. It could have been the Angel Pagan Game. It should have been the Angel Pagan Game. And if it wasn’t going to be, it could have been the R.A. Dickey Game.

You remember the R.A. Dickey Game, don’t you? Do you remember R.A. Dickey? R.A. Dickey was that knuckleballer. Kind of looked like he just blew into town, the bedraggled drifter seeking only honest work. Well, he came out and gave the Mets their night’s worth. Very first batter he faced, Morgan, popped up. Big deal, you say? Dickey made it so, diving à la Pagan and making the putout himself on the line between home and third. Here’s a guy who had endured more than a month of pitching for Buffalo waiting to get his chance in The Show. He wasn’t taking anything for granted.

Dickey was a great story. He was starting because Oliver Perez should have been kicked out of town. Dickey the righty journeyman with no ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow (sounds impossible, right?) was outpitching Ollie the millionaire by a mile. He was matching Hernandez in a battle of fast-working slowballers, too. His knuckler was knuckling and baffling the Nationals. Before the inside-the-parker and the triple play, the night was shaping up as all R.A. all the time. He didn’t give up a hit ’til the fourth and kept the Mets in a 2-2 tie until the seventh.

It was more than Oliver Perez had done in any start but one through the first quarter of the season. It was just what the Mets needed. It was, all things considered, an outstanding Met debut for R.A. Dickey. It could have been the R.A. Dickey Game. It should have been the R.A. Dickey Game if it wasn’t going to be the Angel Pagan Game. The game the Mets played in Washington on May 19, 2010 should be remembered for at least one of them, probably both of them.

Instead, it went down as just another stupid Met loss [4].