I’m kind of sorry I ever heard the admonition to not trust what I see in September since I’d like to believe what I watched and listened to Saturday was a true indication of where the Mets (and the Phillies) are headed. Yet I understand that they were just two games getting played because contractually they had to get played. The Phillies’ main interest, presumably, is avoiding injury and shedding rust; the best that can be said for their seventh and eighth consecutive losses since clinching their fifth consecutive division title is nobody got hurt…but the key phrase in there is “since clinching”. Per Leo Durocher, except in a more complimentary light, those weren’t the real Phillies we saw yesterday, particularly in the second game. But we’ve seen our share of the real Phillies since 2007, so I’ll take beating whoever showed up in their uniforms.
As for the guys in our uniforms, well, huzzah! When Dillon Gee was welcoming baserunner after baserunner to enjoy all that Citi Field’s basepaths had to offer, I pretty much wrote off the night half of Saturday as just one of those things. The Phillies were bound to change their losing ways and Gee just hadn’t been what we hoped Gee would be when we decided Gee was something else.
Yet in an echo of Thursday’s assumption-sundering turnaround, perceptions morphed slowly but surely. On Thursday, as the Cardinals began to have their way with Chris Capuano, and all the hitting shoes in St. Louis were Pujols red, I just assumed those bastards would sweep us efficiently and embarrassingly. But here and there, I noticed the Cardinals couldn’t quite overwhelm the Mets when they had the chance, and in baseball, what doesn’t get overwhelmed has a tendency to stick around. By the ninth inning, even down 6-2, the Mets were very much around to take advantage of Rafael Furcal’s whoopsie and Tony La Russa’s spastic lineup card, the one that couldn’t control itself from penciling in one ineffective reliever after another. The Mets weren’t bounced when they could have been, so instead they bounced back and won, 8-6.
In that vein, Gee, against the Phillies, looked ready to be shoved into his locker and stripped of his lunch money from the outset Saturday night. But damned if he didn’t turn bases loaded, nobody out into inning over, nobody scored. Dillon absorbed three runs worth of damage in the second and third, but he was still in there for three innings after that and went mostly untouched. The Phillies failed to give him the characteristically sadistic wedgie they had planned, and now Gee was free to roam the halls en route to victory. His 13th win, no matter how irrelevant an individual pitcher’s win total can be, was one of his most encouraging — no matter that the fiber of the Phillie lineup wasn’t as strong as it might be under other circumstances.
Under other circumstances, I might have looked at a starting Mets outfield of Willie Harris, Jason Pridie and Nick Evans and let out the groan heard ’round the world (or at least my living room), yet I wasn’t discouraged when I saw this “B” alignment come out for the nightcap. These guys were as good as we had right now. They were pretty much all we had right now, given the various maladies afflicting Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Lucas Duda, but what else is new in 2011? You know how often we had our more or less ideal lineup together this year?
Never was Terry Collins able to present Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Any Second Baseman, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Bay, Pagan and Carlos Beltran on one field at one time. Even the various lowered-expectations combinations that we’ve conditioned ourselves to accept as provisionally ideal — post-Beltran, sans Davis — have been hard to come by. So you want to tell me my team is sending Harris to left, Pridie to center and Evans to right? I’ll say OK, let’s see what they’ve got.
What they had was good enough to manufacture five runs in the bottom of the third. Harris batted in the three-hole, the province of the Hernandezes and the Oleruds and the Beltrans in better years. Willie hadn’t batted third once in 2011 until Saturday night. But he muscled a fly ball to right that would have been out of a normal ballpark and was deep and treacherous enough to twist Hunter Pence into the perplexed llama I believe he will be in his next life. It may have been scored a three-base error, but Harris did the heavy lifting, and it drove in two runs to get the Mets and Gee back into the ballgame.
Evans, this year’s right fielder of no better than third resort, tied the game with a double, and Pridie — who had scored the first run of the third — scorched a ground-rule double to start another successful rally in the fourth. All three reserves contributed to making what had been an already good day into a sweepingly good day, yet none seemed like reserves in the Bambi’s Bombers or Rando’s Commandoes sense. They just seemed like Mets getting a game won, the way Mets have intermittently gotten games won in 2011 when you’ve all but consigned them to the Goodwill bin.
Both the games and the Mets.
It’s September, so I’m trying to remain logically detached from most of these positive results since it’s considered blatantly inadvisable to read too much into them. When your team is long out of the race (and by “long,” I mean three years), the emphasis can’t help but be on next season and the season after that. Sandy Alderson and his minions were brought in to clear away Septembers like this one and, let’s face it, most of the players who’ve populated them. Harris, Pridie, Evans and others have given us a few nice moments this September — many days late and many dollars short, but nice nonetheless. Winning five of eight against playoff-caliber teams following the stunningly depressing four-game sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals, however, has had a Weekend At Bernie’s feel to it. The corpse can be dressed up spiffily and dragged around convincingly, but it’s still a corpse.
Tonight at six, The Happy Recap Radio Show is scheduled to include a dose of Faith and Fear. Tune in here.