The Mets couldn’t win on the road.
Then they couldn’t win on the road unless they were playing the dregs of the junior circuit.
Then … then shut up already. Up in the Bronx (technically a road game) the Mets played with confidence and swagger and every other intangible you might want to believe in. And if your taste runs to the more quantifiable, they got superb pitching, sharp defense and just enough hitting to win a 4-0 game that might have felt a lot closer than the final score, but goes down on the happy side of the ledger.
Before moving to a recitation of kudos and hosannas, let’s stop to enjoy the work of Hisanori Takahashi. Early in the game, I was trying to teach Joshua about the strategy of pitching, how you have to change speeds and eye levels and make hitters move their feet. It’s a new concept for the kid, not so much because he’s seven but because he’s still at the stage of Little League in which coaches pitch, meaning he’s never faced a pitcher who’s trying to get him out. (He looked mildly distressed but mostly intrigued by the news that hitters sometimes peek at where the catcher’s setting up, it’s not formally against the rules, but it will get you hit in the back by a fastball.)
Unfortunately, Joshua was in bed by the fifth inning, so he missed a rather nifty pitching clinic in miniature:
Vs. the Wily Veteran Jorge Posada
- change-up just off corner, 1-0
- change-up in same spot, fouled off, 1-1
- change-up sits high, 2-1
- fastball on inside corner at the knee, arguably a strike, 3-1
- fastball outside corner at the knee, 3-2
- change-up below the knees, walk
Vs. the Effortlessly Annoying Francisco Cervelli
- change-up down the middle, 0-1
- fastball on inside corner at the knees, 0-2
- change-up on the outside corner, swing and a miss, 1 out
Vs. the Young and Overeager Chad Huffman
- change-up for swinging strike, 0-1
- change-up just off that same spot, 1-1
- change-up bounced in dirt, 2-1
- change-up down middle, 2-2
- fastball inside corner, called strike, 2 out
Vs. the More-Dangerous-Than-I-Remember-He-Is Brett Gardner
- fastball just inside, 1-0
- fastball misses inside and low, was supposed to be on the other side of the plate, 2-0
- fastball at the elbows, 2-1
- fastball just off the plate, by Mike Reilly’s definition, 3-1
- fastball bounced back to Takahashi for 1-3 putout, 3 out.
Not a perfect inning, but a smart one. In and out, up and down, fast and slow, knees locking and turning to jelly. Very nice to see.
Takahashi wasn’t the only Met deserving laurels, though. How about David Wright’s do-or-die, bare-handed grab of that Baltimore chop by Posada in the sixth with the bases loaded and two out? That ball seemed like it would hang in the air forever, but Wright snatched it cleanly, remembered an old catcher was running, and gave Ike Davis a good throw to escape disaster. Speaking of which, how about Wright’s nifty hook slide and passing graze of the pointy end of home plate in the first, which had the added benefit of making Cervelli mad?
How about Pedro Feliciano’s yeoman work in the seventh and eighth? I cringe when Feliciano is left in for righties to get an extended look at his sliders, but he was marvelous tonight, with the highlight watching Alex Rodriguez glumly head for the dugout even before Mike Reilly raised his hand on a called strike three. (Though honestly, who else did you want to see to face the righties? Igarashi? Nieve? My answer would be “whomever finally replaces Jenrry Mejia,” but that answer’s not admissible just yet.)
How about Jose Reyes bunting badly enough that Jerry Manuel was forced to discard a bad idea, allowing Jose Jose Jose to rip a double into the corner and nearly tear his own arms off with wild-eyed applause at second? (Cervelli is annoying, Reyes is naturally exuberant, and my judgments are refreshingly disinterested and unbiased.) How about Angel Pagan, whose reputation for dopiness ought to be long since replaced by his reputation for being money in the clutch? How about K-Rod, scaring the crap out of us as usual before wriggling past Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher? How about the baseball gods, for once again asking a Met to stagger beneath a drifting 27th out, but deciding that scenario was too awful to trot out twice? How about the Brooklyn Cyclones, for kicking off their season and Wally Backman’s return with a 5-3 win over the larval Yankees on Staten Island? How about all the Mets fans who got to celebrate in enemy territory? How about 14 hours of bliss before the roller coaster hits the top of the hill again? How about those Mets, anyway?