A sometimes irritating, sometimes amusing side effect of chronicling games as a blogger is the weird double vision you develop as events take their course. By the middle innings you find yourself wondering what your theme is — or wondering if this is one of those ho-hum games where you’re going to have to invent one and hope people think it sort of fits.
This game looked like the latter, and somewhere around the seventh I decided — with no great degree of enthusiasm — that I’d explore what you think games will deliver and how thoroughly that can differ from what you actually get. The beginning of the game was delayed by rain, spatters of storms were visible up and down the coast on radar, I thought about R.A. Dickey trying to grip knuckleballs and Tom Gorzelanny (not exactly an athletic-looking athlete) as his opposite, and figured this was going to be one of those 9-7 games that’s delayed five times and ends at 2:30 a.m with 200 people in the stands and both teams looking more relieved than anything else. The odds were good that I’d see the rest of the 1982 Mets Yearbook, which talked about the actual ’82 Mets for about eight minutes (which might have been about six too many) before retreating frantically to footage of Tommie Agee.
But that wasn’t at all what we got — at least not at first. Instead we got a rather lethargic, low-scoring show, one of those games in which you’re not sure if the pitchers are doing well or the hitters just feel like they’re underwater. Top of the eighth, Nats up 2-1, and maybe we were just going to have to accept it.
Nope. Things were just getting started.
There was Jose Reyes, rifling one up the gap and streaking around to third, where he arrived just ahead of Rick Ankiel’s admittedly rather awesome throw and stayed just on the bag despite momentum and Jerry Hairston Jr. trying to separate him from what he’d rightfully earned. SAFE! No wait, Marvin Hudson inexplicably said OUT, and cue the ballistics. “He’s practically climbing on Chip Hale’s back!” marveled Howie in a great call on WFAN — if Jose had been any madder he might have jumped over his coach. For some reason — every Mets fan immediately saw it as evidence of a guilty conscience — Hudson remained mild under unmild criticism from Jose and Terry Collins (so far more supplicant than litigant in rhubarbs), not excusing either angry man from further play. The way I was reacting in Brooklyn, I wouldn’t have been astonished to see Hudson take out his cellphone and excuse me from further watching.
Get me rewrite, blog-style: Mets robbed, winning streak broken, things said about Marvin Hudson that will need to be shamefacedly qualified tomorrow.
But wait a minute, rewrite desk — we weren’t done. Daniel Murphy, prodigal Met without a position, rose up against the sneakily deadly Tyler Clippard (whom I vaguely remember pitching for the Yankees as a small child) and imprinted a mighty statement upon the horsehide, a declaration that This Will Not Stand, that The Men of Metdom Shall Hold the Line Against These Nats and Their Allies in On-Field Judication. I was briefly thrilled before remembering that it should have been the go-ahead run, which got me mad all over again. (“According to Marvin Hudson, that’s a long fly ball caught by Rick Ankiel,” I tweeted, which I don’t feel bad about yet.)
Ah, but further rewrites awaited. The Mets then promptly sprang some defensive leaks. First Jason Bay nearly corralled an Adam LaRoche parachute on the left-field line, and would have had LaRoche at second after disentangling himself from David Wright, except Murph was gazing in wonder at the little outfield drama instead of covering the bag. Ugh. Then there was a passed ball and a sacrifice fly and, oh, things were fumeworthy again. Now what should we make of this game? The Mets had been robbed, but they’d then rather deftly picked their own pockets. Bad luck? The karma engineers showing us we were going to lose it anyway, so relax? Random noise in a long season?
Oh rewrite, how did you know it was me calling?
In the ninth it was the Nats (whose grasp of defense can be approximate) who fell apart. Little bleeder by Bay, an Ike Davis bloop that a year ago Willie Harris turns into a double play but this time eluded Roger Bernadina, then a Harris bunt thoroughly screwed up by Sean Burnett and their Hairston brother, then a long sac fly by Chin-lung Hu, of all people, an RBI groundout by Josh Thole thanks to smart baserunning by Davis, intentional walk to Reyes and a clothesline double by Murphy to put the game safely in our column.
I’m sure lots of the game stories will talk about grit and fight and Things That Wouldn’t Have Happened Last Year. And maybe rightly so. Maybe Murph was spurred to greatness by the awareness of his employers’ short memories and the Emaus-sized hole lurking behind his position. Maybe this is just life with a young hitter still learning second base and refining the mental checklist of those aspects of baseball that don’t involve a bat. Maybe this is random noise that for one evening produced a result we found harmonious and pleasing.
Whatever it was, it sure was fun. Oh what the heck. Let’s call it karma.