At 9:25 tonight, with two outs in the top of the eighth, Ruben Tejada on first and the Mets hanging on to a rickety-looking 5-4 lead, Jose Reyes stepped to the plate against the Indians’ Chris Perez.
Reyes slashed Perez’s first pitch to right-center on a vicious arc, past the marvelously named Shin-Soo Choo. Normally I’m inclined to say the triple is the most-exciting play in baseball, but let me amend that: A two-out triple with another burner on first is even better. Racing around the diamond separated by 100 feet or so, Tejada and Reyes looked like some insane inventor’s whirligig, or a gag from a Looney Tunes cartoon. Tejada streaked across the plate as Reyes dived into third, the ball arriving high and left for the less-marvelously named Jhonny Peralta. Safe! 6-4, Mets!
At 9:30, leading off the bottom of the eighth, Peralta grounded Elmer Dessens’ second pitch sharply to deep short. Reyes fielded it on the backhand and fired the ball as he sat hard on the ground, with Ike Davis making a nice scoop at first. One out.
At 9:31, Shelley Duncan smacked Dessens’ first pitch toward left-center. Reyes took one quick step towards third, lunged at shoulder height and snatched the ball back out of the air. Two out.
In six minutes, Reyes had driven the Indians faithful to distraction not once, not twice, but three times. He was like a kid tormenting a little brother with a ball on a string — nyaah-nyaah, Cleveland, no ya don’t. Now that the Mets have completed the sweep, I wouldn’t be surprised if several Indians wake up at 2:25 or 3:30 or 4:31 screaming that Reyes is the monster under the bed. His hands are clapping! His knees are churning! His smile is huge and bright and carnivorous! He is coming to get me!
Cleveland’s nightmare, our dream come true. We watched the Mets assemble in Port St. Lucie not expecting much from this season, but comforted that at least we’d have No. 7 out there wreaking havoc. Then came the astonishing news that the game’s most hyperkinetic player had been sentenced to stillness and silence, stuck with an infuriating rehab course of doing absolutely nothing. He returned to us in early April, apparently whole but just as apparently not himself: He was waving at balls out of the zone, popping up balls he’d once driven, edging tentatively away from first base, stumbling at shortstop. It was February for Jose on top of his endless layoff, while it was April for everybody else.
But gradually the rust fell away, chips and flakes shed until tonight there he was again, Jose Reyes at maximum velocity and supreme wattage. And in those six minutes, I remembered what I’d risked forgetting about him — that when Jose Reyes is playing baseball at the peak of his ability, watching him seems like more fun than any human being should be allowed to have. And if it’s that much fun watching Jose Reyes, can you imagine being Jose Reyes?