It’s an age-old fan question: Your team’s down seven runs, and not destined to win. Given this, how would you prefer them to exit stage final? Biting and scratching and clawing, even if all’s in vain? Or quickly and quietly, so as not to waste valuable pluck and luck? (Pluck and luck don’t actually work this way, of course, but there are no rationalists in baseball foxholes.)
The Mets died hard tonight, leaping out of the casket to all but tear the face off the Phillies before being clubbed back into submission in a curious, ultimately futile game. There were bad omens early — despite what happened Tuesday night, I moaned and groaned over Jose Reyes reaching third with nobody out and not scoring in the first, a missing run I kept coming back to as the night got weirder. Granted, for a while that lack looked merely cosmetic: Mike Pelfrey was horrible in about every way a pitcher can be horrible, from bad location to flat pitches to a truly original mental lapse in the field.
One of baseball’s many totally 100% all-true cliches is that if you pay attention, you’ll see something you never saw before. And most of the time I appreciate that. But not when the thing I don’t think I’ve ever seen before is a pitcher making a smart play under pressure as precursor to making a dumb play moments later. In the second, with one out and a runner on first and a fair number of horses already out of the barn, Joe Blanton popped a bunt up behind the mound. Pelfrey let it drop, leaving Pete Orr stranded a step off first. Great play — and one few fielders make in the heat of the moment, and fewer pitchers even try. Pelf had Orr dead to rights at second and was about to record an easy double play or at least replace Orr on first with Blanton, but before I could even bring my hands together to applaud, Pelfrey plucked the ball out of the grass and fired it to first … past Brad Emaus. I’d say I’d like to hear an explanation of that one — I guess Pelf thought going to first initially would let them get Orr in a rundown, which is too greedy — but in truth I’d rather expunge it from memory this instant. Orr would come around to score, and an inning later Pelf got no one out and wound up perched in the dugout looking like he needed smelling salts.
For that, the Mets did come all the way back, removing the hook from Pelfrey’s back with an Angel Pagan homer and then a barrage that chased Blanton in the fifth and dented Antonio Bastardo, who’d like to pre-emptively point out that Fry is Low Alemannic for “basement scribbler,” so shut up. If Bastardo continues to delve into etymology, perhaps he’ll emerge to tell us that, ironically, Rollins is derived from an archaic Dutch word meaning “stationary” — on multiple plays Jimmy displayed the approximate range of a stack of boxes being pushed over. Between that and Chase Utley’s injury and the fact that Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino have the arms of Johnny Damon crossed with a boneless chicken, the Phillies had better hope their vaunted aces strike out guys in bushels.
One of the things about baseball that’s either comforting or galling is that over a large enough sample size it’s usually pretty fair — stuff evens out. In the bottom of the fifth, Blaine Boyer was victimized by a Victorino check-swing double, a little parachute by Placido Polanco that evaded Carlos Beltran by six inches or perhaps another three weeks of right-field experience, and a Ryan Howard grounder that Boyer deflected to land 20 feet in front of a horrified Emaus. Buzzards’ luck, to be sure, but an inning later Boyer was greeted by a Ben Francisco drive that might have landed in Portugal if it were summer. After that the Mets and Phils both seemed pretty spent, or all the randomness had already been squeezed out of the game, and things loped along to a tidy but unhappy conclusion.
The Mets fought back for seven runs. Wish they’d gotten that eighth run when it was there for the taking, that Pelf’s brain hadn’t unhooked itself when it did, that Boyer and Beltran had placed their gloves slightly differently, that Reyes’s fifth-inning drive had risen a bit farther as Ibanez staggered under it. But none of that happened, and so the Mets lost. If you shut this one off in disgust when it was 7-0 and did something else with your night, did you salvage the evening or miss out on something inspiring? You tell me.