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A Marvelous Mess in Cincy

Now that was a fun game.

A mess, to be sure — a big, brawling, unpredictable, crazy game, with lots of reversals and no guarantees, particularly if you were a Reds pitcher asking your defense to get a freaking out already — but a fun mess.

For four innings Jonathon Niese looked untouchable, coolly sawing Reds apart with his cutter, but in the fifth the wheels came off, along with both axles and the transmission, and then the gas tank went up and the airbags deployed and I think something bad might have happened with the cupholders. Meanwhile, poor Johnny Cueto could barely breathe for all the daggers in his back — Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Miguel Cairo (twice) and Edgar Renteria all betrayed him, leading to the rather startling line of 5 IP 6 R 0 ER. When the Reds had an all-hands meetings at the mound, I was generally curious what the infielders said to Cueto. “Eight guys behind ya” probably wasn’t uttered, considering that four of the five Reds present had demonstrated clear ineptitude, with Ramon Hernandez the lone holdout, and only because Laz Diaz decided a catcher’s interference call needed peer review.

The Mets, meanwhile, turned in one of those games that give you delusions of grandeur. Hats off to Terry Collins, who moved smoothly down the line of JV relievers, getting just enough from Manny Acosta, Ryota Igarashi, Pedro Beato and finally Tim Byrdak to assemble four innings of one-run ball without calling on Bobby Parnell or Jason Isringhausen. And hats off to the Mets’ impressive collection of useful players — guys who aren’t stars and might not even be regulars, but who seem to find a way [1] when it matters.

(Momentary digressions: Yonder Alonso might be the best baseball name I’ve heard since Stubby Clapp — and i don’t think he’s Canadian [2]. And old age has given Miguel Cairo an odd resemblance to Popeye, down to the comma eyes and puffy cheeks and ill-advised slapstick.)

But back to useful Mets. There was Justin Turner spraying balls around the park, even if he was a little too enthusiastic on the basepaths. (“Memo from Turner to Reds re Tonight’s Game: FUCK YOU!” I announced, purely to entertain myself — I have nothing against the Reds and had pretty much forgotten they existed before this series.) Daniel Murphy, the mighty Irish Hammer, collected three hits, raised his average to .313 and played three and a half hours at first without cutting off a potential out at home or putting a crushing block on his own team’s closer. (“Erin Go FUCK YOU!” I bellowed happily as Murph wielded his shillelagh to great effect.) Jason Pridie’s ringing double (if it were an indie song we’d have called it plangent) down the right-field line after Niese spat the bit turned a momentary Reds lead back into a Mets lead so fast you wondered if you’d imagined the bad stuff. (Sorry, I had no for-the-heck-of-it profanity regarding Pridie.) Ronny Paulino and his amazingly silly facial hair chipped in a double, with Paulino hooking second base with his fingertips and somehow stopping his considerable momentum. I still don’t know how Paulino did that — it was like one of those movie scenes where one character falls off a cliff and another character grabs him and pulls him up (after a dramatic speech), all with one hand.

But that’s not a bad description of this year’s Mets. I’m not quite sure how they aren’t lying broken at the bottom of the cliff, but the evidence is irrefutable: There they are, holding on to tree roots and thinking about their next move. And now they’re windmilling their feet like Wile E. Coyote and hurling the villains sent to dispatch them over the edge and WHOA! They’re back up on the mountain! But wait — here comes the rest of the posse, and the Mets … OH NO! The Mets are out of bullets! They’re looking at each other in consternation as the horses race toward them! Looks bad for our heroes — but then it did in the last chapter too, and I’ve got a funny feeling that they just might think of something.

Tune in tomorrow night for the next thrilling chapter!