Believe it or not, some baseball games aren’t hell-for-leather affairs won by furious rallies, lost by closer meltdowns or somehow turning on a dread manifestation of Willie Harris. Sometimes a game walks along a tightrope for a while and finally tips one way or the other because of some little thing. And eventually you come to appreciate those games — not because they’re particularly memorable, but because they’re quietly and unfussily fair. These fundamentally even, somewhat mundane contests are the foundation upon which extraordinary games are built.
Or maybe I’m just looking for something to say about this one.
Look, it was a close game, OK? Jonathon Niese and Bronson Arroyo were well-matched. Niese made a couple of mistakes, but two of them were to Brandon Phillips (home run and double), which hardly counts given that being victimized by Phillips is basically inevitable if you’re a member of the Mets and playing baseball against him. (Niese’s other mistake turned into a home run by Chris Heisey, who must frustrate his teammates by already having his own not particularly imaginative nickname as a last name. We’re a long way from the Sultan of Swat when the best we can do is stick a letter in front of “Rod.”) The other elements of Niese’s destruction were what can be technically termed garbage: a worm-killer by Drew Stubbs and a parachute bunt by Arroyo.
On the other side? Well, Angel Pagan matched Phillips with a first-inning home run. Then, the little difference: With the game tied 1-1 in the sixth, Jason Bay hit a screamer up the gap that would have scored David Wright from first — except that Heisey barely caught up with it. If Bay swings a split-second earlier or if Heisey is a split-second slower reading the ball off the bat, it’s 2-1 Mets. (The booing of Bay, by the way, is ridiculous. He’s consistently either driving in runs or hitting line drives that are just caught. Save it for Ollie. Or K-Rod.) But nope, Heisey had just enough time and/or Bay’s ball lacked just enough velocity, and that was that.
Things weren’t perfectly symmetrical: Niese helped short-circuit two rallies for his own cause, first by trying to cross to third on a grounder to the shortstop (convenient, as Joshua and I were discussing mental errors) and then by striking out with runners on second and third and one out. The latter will happen sometimes; he needs to stop doing the former. The Mets made some noise in the ninth, but Francisco Cordero smothered Alex Cora on the eighth pitch of a lively at-bat to end it. A remarkably even game, just one where a couple of things ticked the needle over from W to L. Little things happen. Sometimes in your favor, and sometimes not.
Monday, July 12 is AMAZIN’ ALL-STAR MONDAY, with Marty Noble and Howard Megdal. Come out to Two Boots Grand Central at 7 PM. 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 train. Phone: 212/557-7992. Full details here.