I don’t know who the Mets’ closer is, and that’s fine. Bring in a guy to get three outs who you think can get three outs. And if he can’t get there to your satisfaction, bring in another guy to make it better.
There may not be fancy save totals or theatrical entrances, but there could be a win for the Mets at the end of such a bland rainbow. We got one of those Friday night. I’ll take it.
Silly me, I thought this game was going to be sloppy, endless affair. It wasn’t incredibly crisp, not the way you’d envision a 2-1 score implying, but it hummed along efficiently enough. Mike Pelfrey was shaky in the first, loading the bases full of Astros, but escaped. Nelson Figueroa (remember him?) wasn’t sharp, but he persevered after giving up one ugly tally in the first. Between the two 2009 Mets, the first inning took half-an-hour.
After that, a little more than two hours and mostly zeroes. Big Pelf put up nothing but, assisted by one sparkling play after another (Pagan, Castillo, Tejada, Davis, Beltran and the right arm of Jeff Francoeur all stood out). Figgy morphed into Nelson Gone Wild in the fourth, walking three batters and yielding another run, but otherwise the misplaced Brooklynite filed seven serviceable innings for Houston. Pelfrey didn’t seem overwhelming, but you couldn’t tell from the no runs he allowed in eight innings.
The ninth arrives and Pelfrey (124 pitches) hands it off to the closer. Or he would if we had one who wasn’t injured after (allegedly) perpetrating third-degree assault. Without the usual ninth-inning guy, it fell to…who exactly?
On this night, Jerry Manuel’s best idea to fill what had been Francisco Rodriguez’s slot was Bobby Parnell. It wasn’t a terrible idea, but it didn’t prove practical. Now when Astros hit balls on a line, they fell in. One Houstonian was retired but two wound up on base. So much for Parnell on Friday night.
In came Hisanori Takahashi, and in the best tradition of glamorous closers, he caused a genuine sensation.
The surge of emotion, however, was confined the section of the Pepsi Porch occupied by some folks on hand for Japanese Heritage Night. They were delighted to have their countryman in the game. The rest of Citi Field mostly sat and hoped for the best. We did that for Parnell and, I suppose, Rodriguez when he was a factor, but there was no light show, no overture. It was just Hisanori trying to end the story.
First, it wasn’t easy. Jason Michaels brought home a run. Now it wasn’t a combined shutout anymore. Now it wasn’t quite so breathable. It was a one-run game, one closer fill-in gone, the other not on the most solid of ground. Two on, one out.
Yet the Mets’ world did not come crashing down on Hisanori Takahashi. He had to nail down two outs and he did (weird balls & strikes umpiring helped, but it’s been known to hurt, so we won’t question Angel Campos too harshly). Angel Sanchez popped up and Tony Manzella looked at strike three and that was that in a good sense. No closer per se, but when BTO blares, nobody much notices that it was an understudy instead of a star takin’ care of business.
Some other observations to share from a second consecutive night at the ol’ ballpark…
• The Shea Stadium Apple’s placement in Mets Plaza remains brilliant, as brilliant as the Citi Field Apple beyond the center field remains dormant. I’ve designated ye olde Apple as a meeting spot several times in 2010 and everybody finds it with no fuss (as opposed to my no longer operable Gate E instructions that used to confuse people even though “first gate after the subway staircase, behind the ticket window, in that corner near the souvenir stand — to the right of the entrance” seemed clear enough to me). I waited for my lovely wife there for less than ten minutes and probably landed in the background of about twenty pictures. People love that Apple. I’m so glad the Mets diverted it from its Dumpster destiny in 2008 and relocated it from the Bullpen basement after 2009.
• Dwight Gooden’s Mets Hall of Fame plaque now correctly expresses his term of Met service: 1984-1994. It was noted here that it was initially wrong. It no longer is. Thank you, Mets, for ultimately getting that right.
• To the nice young man I met in April, I’m truly sorry for blanking on our original exchange when you approached me again Friday night. No, I’m not good with faces, but also it sometimes takes me a moment to crank myself up to speed on every asset in my memory bank (though plucking Cleon Jones’s 1971 batting average out of the air is a breeze; go figure). Thanks for saying hi four months ago, thanks for saying hi once more. It means a lot to me.
• Enjoyed another pregame beer with my new Australian friend, the guy from Thursday who was once told by Bobby Bonilla to “put it on my tab”. Wouldn’t we all love to have that option?
• Also met a nice couple from Wisconsin, half of whom I also knew previously only from online endeavors. The dude is originally from Illinois but had a grandfather in Connecticut who converted him to Metsdom early in life, and it stuck. Longtime Met devotion without having lived anywhere near Flushing would seem strange on the face of it, but not after learning a visiting Aussie became a Mets fan on the strength of Bobby Bonilla’s heretofore unreported graciousness. That’s strangeness personified.
• I ordered Stephanie a “regular” soft drink from the Cascarino’s stand on Field Level. I thought regular meant the cup in the middle. No, it’s the tiny cup on the left. I would have thought that was the “small,” because it literally is the smallest of the three. There is no small. there’s only “regular,” “medium” and whatever the huge one with Mr. Met’s picture is called. The tiny “regular” is $4.25. And though the correct beverage was dispensed into the requested cup for $4.25, the lady behind the counter referred to it by the wrong brand name, which seemed impossible to do since the name of the brand is emblazoned on the fountain, on the cup, all over a Party Patrol and atop a nearby Porch. But never bet against attention not being paid to the most basic of details anywhere the Mets are involved.
• With precious few exceptions (generally the Danny Meyer places), everyone who works a foodservice concession at Citi Field seems put upon by every single transaction in which they are compelled to participate. Asking what you want is a chore; getting it for you is a chore; taking your money is a chore; returning your change is a chore; saying either “thank you” or “you’re welcome” is a chore; interrupting a conversation with their co-workers is obviously not appreciated. It’s New York, it’s the Mets, it’s whatever excuse we apply to it, so we kind of accept it, but then you take a step back and realize this is customer service, yet it’s disinterested at best, shoddy and getting shoddier at worst. Do the Mets and Aramark only hire those who don’t want to work at Citi Field, or do the Mets and Aramark make working at Citi Field that dismal an experience?
• When did “Let’s Go Mets” become a defensive chant? Now and then at Shea it would start up in the top of an inning, and it was harmless enough, I supposed, but I’d always understood it as primarily a motivational tactic/suggestion aimed at our hitters. Now the A/V squad fires it up when we’re in the field. Not as inappropriate as reaching for it when we’re down by seven in the top of the ninth, but sort of alien in any circumstance in the bottom of the ninth. I’m not used to Hisanori Takahashi materializing at that juncture either, and that worked OK Friday, so we’ll see about this other thing.
• Stephanie is 5-0 at Citi Field this season, 7-0 lifetime. Let’s all meet her at the Apple.