Ah, Garbage Time. Been a while.
Garbage Time is weird. Losing generally produces a dull ache instead of the sharp pain felt while you still dream of the postseason, but winning, weirdly, can be more fun. And I know why: When your team’s aiming at first place, or the wild card, or even just has a chance to pass the third-place team and then we’ll see, the joy of winning is followed all too swiftly by fretting about losing. What if we don’t win tomorrow? If only we’d won that game two days/a week/two months ago, we’d be a game closer! It’s great we’re in first, but it’s only 2.5 games — that could be gone in three lousy days!
A Garbage Time win means a lot less, but it comes with no such baggage. Your team won. You’re happy. The end.
Of course this game was weird anyway. I’ve fallen into the bizarre sleep habits that are a peril of being a freelance writer — on Tuesday night, for instance, I slept from about 10:30 at night until 2:30 in the morning, happily missing most of a horrid Mets game, worked through the dawn, collapsed around mid-morning and woke up groggily around noon. So a 6:35 p.m. start for a West Coast game was like being subjected to a dizzy-bat race, temporally speaking, even beyond Greg’s admonition that it’s always 3 a.m. in southern California. Wait, is it 10 at night again? Dinner time? 4 in the afternoon? What the hell time is it, and why is someone doing this to us?
That looked like what Dillon Gee was thinking after he was cuffed around in the first inning and stared in at Josh Thole with runners on second and third and one out. But Gee gathered himself and struck out Jesus Guzman, who plays against us like he’s the son of some baseball god, at least, and then got Orlando Hudson (who may be the friendliest man in baseball, judging from his greetings to any opponent in proximity and constant smiles) to ground out to escape dispiriting early harm. After that Gee was terrific, and lucky to boot — witness his third-inning behind-the-back grab of a hard grounder struck by Jason Bartlett. Ball in hand, Gee whirled and fired to second, and I had nightmare visions of Angel Pagan corralling the ball (or forgetting to do so), followed a few hours later by Terry Collins sounding exasperated as he said philosophical things. But no, Gee’s timing was perfect: Ruben Tejada arrived just as Gee’s throw did, for a very nice double play that made you think this just might be our day after all.
And why not? After all, David Wright had somehow pounded a three-run homer despite having to stare out at a pretty fair pitcher in Mat Latos while being mired in Mordorian shadows. (Lucas Duda would later try the same thing, only to be denied by the enormous, often awkward-looking Kyle Blanks. Essentially, Duda flied out to himself.) And then, the capper in the fourth: Wright speared Logan Forsythe’s apparent double, sprawling across the foul line, faked the throw to first and then darted to third, where he tagged out a disbelieving and one presumes deeply chagrined Cameron Maybin. (As Gary and Ron noted on the replay, Wright faked out San Diego third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, too.) Wright trotted off the field looking quietly pleased with himself, in possession of not only the third out but also Maybin’s lunch money, light-up yo-yo and the four-leaf clover he’d found in recess and pressed in a dictionary.
After that, there was the welcome, somewhat surprising sight of Manny Acosta preventing disaster in the seventh and the unwelcome, not particularly surprising sight of Ryota Igarashi doing his best to screw up the ninth. Fortunately, by then the Mets’ margin for error was unscrewupable — which was exactly the kind of game they and we could have used right about now, whatever the heck time that was.