A day after playing a stultifying, graceless mess of a game that they won, the Mets played a bizarre, quietly fascinating game that they lost.
After you’ve watched enough baseball games, you find yourself wondering if the baseball cliché about seeing something you’ve never seen before should be retired. Because, really, how can that be? I’m comfortably above 3,000 games watched by now, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff: dropped third strikes, four strikeouts in an inning, winning runs balked in, 9-3 putouts on unsuspecting pitchers, catcher’s interference, runners missing bases, runners passing each other, balls hit through gloves, balls hit up outfielders’ sleeves, cycles, no-hitters, three home-run games, innings with two grand slams, 10-run innings, even an unassisted triple play. But then you’re minding your own business and sure enough, you see something you’ve never seen before.
I’ve seen batters hit with the bases loaded. I’ve seen batters awarded first base with only the fabric of their uniforms suffering impact. I’ve seen the two in combination — heck, I remember the Mets winning a game on a ball that wound up in Daryl Boston’s shirt. But what happened involving Scott Rolen and Mike Pelfrey and Jerry Meals and Rod Barajas and Dusty Baker and Jerry Manuel tonight was a new one on me. For posterity, with the bases loaded and nobody out (ulp) in the top of the fifth, Pelf nearly hit Rolen with a 1-2 pitch. Then he threw another one a little more inside. Rolen thought it hit him and started for first base, only to come to a startled stop when he realized Meals, the home-plate ump, had just called him out. Apparently he’d tipped the ball into Barajas’ mitt. Out came Dusty Baker, who nearly collided with the bat boy (what is it about Dusty and bat boys not paying attention, anyway?) in his haste to argue with Meals. But wait a minute, the umpires had to caucus. And after a long, doleful conversation, they decided Rolen had been hit after all. Barajas went ballistic and had to be taken away by teammates and coaches. Jerry Manuel came out to rant and rave, looked like he was running out of gas, realized he hadn’t been ejected and ranted and raved some more until finally he was. Most peculiar.
Oddly, the calmest person in the whole mess was Pelfrey.
I wasn’t too worked up, because whatareyagonnado. The ball definitely wasn’t foul-tipped; it was either ball three or grazed Rolen’s shirt. Not even the fabled Coors Freeze-Cam could say for sure. I don’t particularly blame the umps for getting together for a discussion when they clearly think something’s gone wrong — I much prefer the sight of that to one ump swearing he’s right while everybody screams bloody murder, the fans watch a nearby monitor and boo, and the other umps all intently study the grass. But if we’re going to go this far, why not go a sensible step further? Put an ump in a booth, call him up, ask him what he saw, and in 30 seconds or so we’re good. We review home runs and the world hasn’t spun off its axis, half the park already effectively has instant replay, and within a few years we’ll all have it on our smartphones or our tablets or our holographic implants, so let’s just stop pussyfooting around already and do what we all know will eventually get done.
Anyway, Pelf managed to get two outs without further damage, but then Meals turned what was clearly strike two on Drew Stubbs into ball one, and when Pelf spun to stare disgustedly into the outfield, you kind of knew things weren’t going to end well. WHAM! Single to left for Stubbs. Then BAM! Double hugging the line for Corky Miller, who has a ridiculous name as well as some goofy facial hair. (Hey Steve Reynolds, doesn’t he look like a mutant version of Casino Hayes?) Then KABOOM! A triple for the friggin’ pitcher, horses out of the barn which has in fact burned down, and thanks for showing up on a blast-furnace night everybody, because it’s 7-1 and this one’s over.
Except it wasn’t. No, the Mets promptly turned a David Wright anywhere-else home run Citi Field triple and a goofy Ike Davis roller and a Jeff Francoeur walk (????!!!!!) and a Barajas single and an Alex Cora double into a 7-6 game, and it was only the fifth. So of course they got one cruddy hit the rest of the way and lost.
Baseball, man. Go figure.
Couple of parting observations:
- Somebody put Joey Votto on the All-Star team before he kills us all. Votto is really impressive, and not just for the fact that he swats baseballs into the stratosphere — his bat is very quiet and his hands are ungodly fast. Speaking of All-Star games, by the way, somebody tell Charlie Manuel that being honest about why you did something doesn’t count if what you did was simultaneously stupid and douchey .
- Fernando Nieve should go out tomorrow and kiss every brick in Citi Field. Yeah, he gave up Votto’s second home run of the game in the sixth, but in another park he might have given up back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers and now be on the DL with neck strain and PSTD.
- Arthur Rhodes, goddamn. Every year I lose track of him, and then he shows up late in games to throttle left-handed Mets hitters. He’s one of those baseball bit players who I fervently wish would retire already, while knowing that in three or four years I’ll kind of miss him. Rhodes has been very good at a very specific, very important thing for a long time, and that’s worth acknowledging.
Citi Field tomorrow with Greg, who will be pitting his streak of the Mets winning because he’s attending against his streak of the Mets losing because he’s recapping.* Something’s gotta give. But for now, time to lie very still in front of a large fan. Careful out there, folks.
* causal link not scientifically proven just yet.
And remember: Monday, July 12 is AMAZIN’ ALL-STAR MONDAY, with Marty Noble and Howard Megdal. Come out to Two Boots Grand Central at 7 p.m. It’s in the Lower Dining Concourse of Grand Central Terminal, 42nd Street and Park Avenue, accessible via Metro-North as well as the 4, 5, 6, Times Square Shuttle and, of course, the 7 trains. Phone: 212/557-7992. Full details here.