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The Confounding Little Team That Sometimes Could

The Mets remain the confoundingest team in the world. Tonight they beat the Braves rather handily behind R.A. Dickey’s fluttering knucklers and Jose Reyes’s regular dose of high-octane awesomeness. They did so by scoring runs early and often against Tim Hudson — enough runs to withstand their own late-inning swoon, as Manny Acosta reminded us why he wound up on the discard pile and Frankie Rodriguez surrendered a home run to Diory Hernandez that looked like it had been launched by a cruise missile. K-Rod righted himself, ending things with Chipper Jones on deck, and so the Mets go on to Milwaukee after a 5-5 homestand that might have been 10-0 with better penwork and more offense.

So it goes: We’ve crept back to within three games of .500, which isn’t great but isn’t horrible, particularly considering David Wright and Ike Davis are sidelined. Here’s desperately hoping they’re not joined by Carlos Beltran, who crumpled in a heap after fouling a ball off his shin. X-rays were negative, but then they usually are with this team, and we know 2011 Mets who have wound up in the morgue after suffering injuries apparently less dramatic. The Buffalo Soldiers keep bobbing along, somehow afloat despite themselves. You give up on them and they come back to thrash the Pirates, or send Dillon Gee and Dickey out to throttle the Braves. You start believing in them and they gag up leads in the late innings or stop scoring runs or the owner says something horrifying or someone else exits with a minor injury that proves major. You could get whiplash just trying to keep up with your own expectations.

Sitting out behind the Great Wall of Flushing, it struck me that most of the fire has gone out of Mets-Braves. Tonight Bobby Valentine was up in the ESPN booth and Bobby Cox was home being cranky about something, and only Chipper remains to draw the boos. Still, it’s always fun to jump the Atlantans, and the Mets did so rather handily [1] against Hudson.

As for Sunday night baseball, well, today’s game was supposed to be a 1:05 start, one I was going to go to with Joshua before ESPN snatched it away. That’s happened to my kid far too often over the years, and while he’s getting older and more accepting about the world disappointing him, it’s still a lousy thing to have happen to a boy. (I brought home a batting helmet for him, at least.) But when scheduled so as not to betray children, Sunday night baseball’s kind of cool: You know you’re the only game still rolling along, so you have baseball to yourself, the last show before the curtain closes. The crowd was pretty good given the schedule switcheroo, a boisterous bunch who chanted for Jose not to go away, for the Atlanta fans cheering Brian McCann’s homer to sit down and shut up already, and for good things in general and the celebration of them.

And it was a beautiful night, a little cool for early June but not cold. I attended with my friend John, a Citi Field newbie, who raved about the food (he was also a Shake Shack newbie) and the overall feel of the park. I found myself pointing that we couldn’t see the left fielder, and told him about how the Mets stuff had been missing for most of the first year, and then … and then I wondered what exactly I was doing. It was a beautiful night and the Mets were bashing out hits and we were having a good time, so why was I determined to run things down and weave a little Metsian black cloud above our heads?

So I stopped.

In the bottom of the fifth we took a tour, revisiting the Left Field Landing and walking across the Shea Bridge and up to the Promenade and stopping for a beer in the court atop the rotunda. I pointed out the Pepsi Porch, and we paused by the long exit ramp behind third base to take in a postcard-quality view of the Sound and the Manhattan skyline. It was a beautiful night, you could follow the game from TV to TV and screen to screen as you walked, and in no time we were back in our seats and the Mets had scored another run.

I suppose you could ask for more than that, but why on earth would you?