By about the fifth inning or so it was clear that the only way to capture this Bataan Death March of a game was chronologically, as fear ebbed and flowed and was overtaken by exhaustion. If you have trouble fixing just when something happened or recalling what sparked some outburst from me, rest assured that it doesn’t really matter. Here we go:
— I have nothing in particular against Miguel Batista except being bad on a long-ago fantasy team of mine, but seeing him out there in No. 47 makes me reflexively dislike him. Ah, T@m Gl@v!ne, someday we’ll forgive you.
— I have a lot against Jack McKeon, on the other hand, starting with his irascible gamesmanship and continuing on through any number of his Pleistocene habits. Though in fairness he is exactly the person I’d want to inflict on Hanley Ramirez. Watching Jack in the dugout reminds me of him trying to psych out a very young Jason Isringhausen by objecting to some writing or color on his glove, which prompted Bobby Valentine to head to the mound with a Sharpie and spend a good three minutes blackening the offending portion of Izzy’s glove while talking a blue streak to his pitcher. I think he was trying to distract Izzy, but the effect was ruined by the fact that Bobby V’s face was contorted into a rictus of hatred. I wonder if Izzy remembers that.
— I’m really happy Val Pascucci has been rewarded with a call-up, but honestly, No. 15 should have stayed in mothballs for a good two or three years at least. That’s disrespectful.
— The constant mutter of fan conversations is really aggravating. I think Gary and Keith could double as PA announcers by raising their voices slightly. What are there, 1,200 people here? At maximum?
— Fuck Greg Dobbs. Every year seems to bring a Marlin I reflexively can’t stand. It used to be Cody Ross, that shudder-inducing fetal pig of a man. Now it’s Dobbs. Granted, he got a head start claiming this title by being The Angriest Phillie in our clashes with them before they got horrifyingly good. You can see him champing at the bit to beat us, every game. Possibly including this one.
— Wow, the Marlins went by number and identified Mike Baxter as Blaine Boyer. This is quite the operation they have here. Does anyone else wonder if a spiffy new park will really fix what’s wrong with this franchise? Yeah, Soilmaster Stadium sucks, and their cheapjack owner is loathsome. But the problem with the Marlins is they play in a flighty city full of dimwits who don’t particularly like baseball. Will a retractable roof and more expensive seats really fix all that? Or will the 2012 Marlins just play in a better-looking, half-empty building? Really, the obvious thing to do is contract them and impose the Armin Tamzarian treatment: No one will ever mention the Marlins again, under penalty of torture.
— Manny Acosta is proof that you can never completely give up on relievers, unless they’re Rich Rodriguez or Danny Graves.
— Angel Pagan, on the other hand, is proof that you can never assume a player has truly taken a leap forward. His misplay on Emilio Bonifacio’s little dunker bordered on criminally negligent, and it’s the kind of play he’s made all too often this year. And goddamn it, here comes Dobbs. Sigh. This is the kind of game we always play here. Some little something doesn’t get done, and the whole mess unravels before you can say “Luis Castillo.” I can feel defeat looming.
— Ah, but Pagan seeks to redeem himself, with a little help from Logan Morrison not pulling off a good but makeable catch. And now … NICK FUCKING EVANS!
— I love Evans. The guy can just plain hit, and he’s a pretty good first baseman, all things considered. Sure, he made an error on a rather spastic throw — but he also made a gutsy throw to get the lead runner at second, and he’s saved David Wright several errors with nice scoops. And his grasp of the strike zone is precocious. There’s got to be a place for him somewhere on this team next year.
— Whoa, did a black cat actually run in front of the Marlins’ dugout? How was it not our dugout? And a rabid black panther? That ate Wright?
— Izzy, fighting himself, finally prevails in a nine-pitch duel against Jose Lopez, catching him on a curve at the ankles. But here’s that fucking Bonifacio. And so of course Izzy strikes him out, with Ronny Paulino coolly stepping on home after the dropped third strike instead of forgetting the rule and trying to throw to first past a speedy runner. Paulino knows his stuff.
— And Pagan continues to atone with a shot off the first-base bag!
— Ah, Bobby Parnell, crumbling before our eyes even as Terry Collins tries to sculpt him into a closer. I didn’t think Mike Cameron would be the one to kill us, but Soilmaster finds a way. Young pitchers have growing pains and closers have spells, but that image of Parnell’s hand snapping down to his shoetops after Cameron’s double is disturbing.
— Donnie Murphy, whoever that is, is 4 for 40 on the year. Which means he’s certain to be the one to kill us. Stranger things have happened, and usually do here.
— Tim Byrdak versus Goddamn Greg Dobbs, whom I swear the Marlins are sneaking up as every third hitter. The crowd is down to what, 400? In games like this you never can see the hero or the villain coming — it’s only later that it makes sense and seems inevitable. But I’ve got my usual bad feeling about Dobbs.
— Nope. On we go.
— On God, Wright dropped a ball that should have been Jose’s. Tricky, over-the-shoulder grab, landed fair. Now it’s second and third. Wright looks agonized. Reyes much the same. And here’s Murphy — their Murphy, not our injured one — up again. Anonymous Marlin, which means potential killer.
— Wait, why is McKeon pinch-running a converted catcher for Cameron? And how did Ryota Igarashi get out of that? (Answer: Tight hamstring. Meaning, “that was the answer to the question of Cameron’s removal.” Igarashi’s recent effectiveness? That defies rational explanation.)
— OK, the Marlins have the Z team in. There’s a catcher in the outfield and their massive, ineffective tub of a pitcher in. If there’s ever a chance for us to do something good at Soilmaster, this is it.
— Evans is up and I find I’m glad it’s him. Baseball can sure change quickly. BASE HIT! NICK EVANS IS GOING FROM THE BACK OF THE MILK CARTON TO THE FRONT OF THE WHEATIES BOX!!!!!!!
— Paulino, it should be noted, has caught 12 innings with a broken toe. He is one tough hombre.
— It’s absolutely silent now. The Mets just tried a suicide squeeze, which almost always gets a crowd baying in alarm and hope and anticipation, only there was no reaction because there’s no crowd. Seriously, the players may outnumber the fans.
— Unofficial count of the crowd is 347, sayeth Gary. The announced attendance is 22,318. HAHAHAHAHAHA. I bet there are foul balls lying in abandoned sections, waiting to be found by some confused kids tomorrow afternoon.
— Very nice at-bat by Ruben Tejada, again. So of course, to confound me, on the 11th pitch he guesses wrong and looks at a splitter that doesn’t really split and goes right down the middle. Ugh, baseball.
— Jose drives in a run! And becomes your National League Batting Leader again! At least two dozen fans are rejoicing! More seriously, Jose leaning down and bending his knees to muscle a liner drive over the infield is one of my favorite sights in baseball. Please don’t make me miss it.
— Nice line by Gary Cohen: “So [Josh Stinson]’s been in this position [closing] in the Eastern League … where the crowds are probably bigger than they are tonight.”
— Stinson, another Louisianan seeking a save. I hate myself for thinking that.
— Please don’t face Dobbs. Even though the Marlins would be down 7-4 with one on, he’d somehow hit a three-run homer. Those are the Soilmaster rules.
— Whew. No Dobbs. We win! And go a game over .500 at this travesty of a joke of a horror show, with one to play. One more game before nothing bad can happen to us in this teal monstrosity ever again.
— Seriously, if you shook me awake in mid-January and said, “the Mets are playing an exhibition game RIGHT NOW, and it’s on TV,” I hope I’d have the presence of mind to ask, “It’s not at Soilmaster, is it?” Because if you said yes, I’d tell you that’s OK, I can wait until March.