Well, we will do that, but not quite yet. (I think I just interrupted an interruption.) First, let’s go back to last night.
Bases loaded, one out in the sixth, Tigers up 6-5, David Wright at the plate, and I was sure the Mets were about to at least tie the game and likely take the lead. I wasn’t hopeful — I was certain. Yes, the specter of Daniel Murphy on third against the Cubs popped into my head, but I paid it no mind. Here came the tying run. We’d see this at-bat on the season-highlights DVD or watch it on Holographic TiVo years from now and recall that yes, that was one of those games that told you which way the universe was aligning.
Wright struck out. 6-5 was as close as the Mets got. First place — not counting a technical stretch of occupying it for a few hours — would have to wait.
And yet I wasn’t particularly bothered. I still felt like the universe was aligned, that good things would happen, that there would be magic in the summer nights to come. I just revised my feeling slightly to note that this magic couldn’t be flipped on and off like a light switch. There’d be plenty of it, but it needed to be rationed out a bit. And that was OK.
A night later, I can’t decide whether that’s the hard-won wisdom of a patient baseball fan, or shimmering heat mistaken for a desert lake by a desperate man.
But tonight lived up to my rather blithe self-assurances in the face of a frustrating loss. The Mets scuffled a bit early, then rose up against Kevin Slowey and pulled away to a comfortable distance without undue fuss, other than the last 90 feet of the journey home being repeatedly unorthodox: There was Wright scampering home after Denard Span’s throw to Joe Mauer bounced away, Ike Davis stutter-stepping through a red-light/green-light from Chip Hale and Ruben Tejada’s fingertips beating Mauer’s mitt to the side by an entire half-second at least. But it all worked out. Even the negatives called attention to positives: Nick Punto’s fifth-inning leadoff double clanked off the thumb of Jason Bay’s glove, prompting Emily and me to remark that for all his defense was maligned over the winter, that was the first misplay we could remember from Bay.
And then, with the Twins defeated, it was time to keep tabs on the Tigers doing nothing against Billy Wagner, and to see if Edwin Jackson could win his way past his own fatigue and the Tampa Bay Rays to gain entry to the formerly exclusive No-Hitters Club. Jackson walked eight. (!!!!) He threw 149 pitches. (!!!!!!!) The Diamondbacks’ bullpen was active after the sixth inning. He made it anyway. (And lest someone poring through the Faith and Fear archives a few years from now assume it was a fluke, Jackson was still alternating 96 MPH heat with 82 MPH change-ups in the ninth.)
It’s the fourth no-hitter of the still-young season, with Jackson joining the company of Dallas Braden, Ubaldo Jimenez and Roy Halladay, with Armando Galaragga offering a magnanimous, melancholy nod from just offstage. The Arizona Diamondbacks, a franchise that wouldn’t be old enough to get a learner’s permit if it were a person (and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to dress itself), have two no-hitters.
The Mets … sigh.
Jimenez’s no-hitter was the Rockies’ first, but they hadn’t been around long enough for the lack to become a defining characteristic. Ditto for the Rays, only in their 13th year as a franchise, and generous in allowing their fans to witness no-hitters by the opposition. That leaves the Padres — older than me by a month — and us. And the shared emptiness that has become our obsession.
I have always acted as if our no-hitter is coming soon. Each night I call “24 to go” if the Mets’ pitcher gets out of the first without a hit, then count down by threes after that. I’ve taught Joshua to do that too; we both mutter “another night…” after the first hit, with Emily sometimes joining us and always registering the fact that tonight is exactly like all other nights. I know to the word what the Faith and Fear post commemorating the apparently impossible will say. You’ll love it. I can’t wait to write it.
Besides, it’s not like I’ve never watched the apparently impossible come to pass. For years my fairly dedicated fandom came with an asterisk: I’d never seen a triple play, a curiosity I’d share with anyone who showed mild interest and plenty of people who didn’t. Then all of a sudden I was minding my own business in the Shea mezzanine on Aug. 5, 1998 and the Mets turned one against the Giants. SCREECH, end of that story. Now, I regard triple plays the way most people do — they’re the four-leaf clovers of baseball. I missed Angel Pagan turning his against the Nationals back in May, shook my head sadly when the Padres tripled up the Mets earlier this month during Jon Niese’s coming-out party. In both cases, I got on with it. Heck, I’ve even seen an unassisted triple play, something I never dreamed I’d get to witness. Cycles? Seen more than my share.
But a no-hitter? By a New York Met? It’s eluded Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack and Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez and David Cone and Frank Viola and Bret Saberhagen and Rick Reed and Al Leiter and Mike Hampton and T@m Gl@v!ne and Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, to throw out just some of the names offered incredulously by people who haven’t heard of the Mets’ epic run of imperfection. There’s no requirement that the man who breaks the streak has to be a top-flight pitcher such as Santana or Pelfrey, of course — it could be R.A. Dickey or Niese (he came close, as have others) or Dillon Gee or a just-acquired Jake Westbrook or Oliver Perez doing it while walking even more guys than Edwin Jackson.
Because you never know.
But as a Mets fan, in this respect you can guess pretty reliably.