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The Pennant Race: Just Visiting

The Mets got to see how the other half lives, dies and resurrects itself Friday night. The Mets got to see what it’s like for a team to be fighting for its playoff life. The Mets got a real good look because, except for one half-inning, they were mostly spectators.

Remember pennant races and the Mets’ participation in them? Remember when meaningful games in September weren’t meaningful for only the other team? The Mets had a chance to inject a little definition into their otherwise meaningless season by beating the Braves or at least pressing them from beginning to end. For a little while, I thought that was their plan.

In the bottom of the second, everything was going wrong for the Braves, which meant everything was going right for the Mets. We were on the other side of the karmic divide from where we floundered two and three Septembers ago. Now we were the team that had no business winning a game from a team that really needed it, but too bad — we’re on your schedule, you have to beat us…and you can’t. At least that’s how it appeared in the second when Ike Davis walked and grand old disagreeable Bobby Cox padded his career ejection total (158) like Nolan Ryan randomly extending his strikeout record in 1993. Nobody was ever going to catch Nolan either.

Cox argued a while with Bill Hohn, Tommy Hanson waited on the mound as his manager’s fuse wore down and the Mets took advantage The Mets started hitting the ball with authority and in short order put three runs on the board.

The Braves trailed by three in a game that would kill them to lose. It wouldn’t eliminate them — they’re too close and it’s too early for that, but no contender wants to blow a winnable contest to a distant also-ran in the second half of September. While I enjoyed the Mets leading 3-0, I also cringed recalling when we were the team in the Braves’ shoes, footwear that trudged away from two straight losses to the Nationals at Turner Field earlier this week. As we were bolting ahead in Queens, the Phillies were toying with Washington, leading them by six after one. The Braves entered Friday three behind Philly in the East, while the Wild Card was becoming more and more of a scramble, which made Atlanta’s October no sure thing.

Fuck the Braves, of course, but also fuck the Nationals for sweeping us [1] at Shea in September 2007. And fuck them for laying down to the Phillies in the series just after. And fuck the Cardinals for taking that makeup game [2] in between. Oh and fuck the Marlins — I mean fuck the Marlins in the face for the two worst September baseball weekends of all time. And fuck Luis Aguayo and Darnell Coles for 1987 [3] while we’re at it.

That fucking feeling never leaves you if you don’t win when you can. You hate everybody who was an impediment and an obstacle. Now was our shot to be that for the Braves (fuck the Braves yet again for 1998 and 2001) and I was enjoying the opportunity to stick it to them good. I was hoping that some Braves fan somewhere was making a list:

• Fuck Ike Davis for walking and get Cox ejected.
• Fuck Josh Thole for singling him to third.
• Fuck Lucas Duda — who? — for bringing home Davis.
• Fuck Jon Niese of all people for driving in Thole.
• And fuck that Jose Reyes for pushing across Duda.

Yes, Braves, taste it and eat it. Take a bite out of that pennant race sandwich and choke on it.

Then, of course, it went the other way. Wright makes an error. Niese doesn’t quite shake it off. He walks Hanson. BOOM! goes Infante with a double. BOOM! goes Heyward with a homer. BOOM! go the Braves with a six-run fourth.

Boom goes the dynamite sensation of deriving the slightest Sheadenfreude of doing in the Braves. The Braves weren’t done in at all. By the end of the evening they were 6-4 winners [4], hadn’t lost any ground to the Phillies and gained a little breathing room for the Wild Card. By the end of the same evening, having made the fatal mistake of not scheduling an entire month of visits from the Pirates, we had reverted to .500 and familiar form. With a chance to do lethal damage to somebody else’s chances, we served only as pennant race roadkill.


On a happier note, congratulations to Lucas Duda for briefly rising above his teammates’ torpidity and belting his first major league home run, making him — hopefully temporarily — the 71st member of Club Hessman [5], Mets with exactly one home run as Mets. After 40 at-bats, Duda has five hits as a Met, four of them for extra bases. His mentor in unbearably light top-heavy production [6], meanwhile, is currently 7-for-47, with four of his safeties accounting for more than one base.

Mike’s batting .149 with 19 strikeouts; Lucas is up to .125 with 11 whiffs. Some would say Duda is at last on the Interstate. I’m just glad the kid is no longer riding the O-29 bus.