Seven scoreless from Jamie Moyer’s spiritual younger brother from another mother Miguel Batista…spectacular.
Daniel Murphy skipping a ball between Kirk Nieuwenhuis’s strides and through the shortstop hole Gary Cohen had detected a moment earlier…delicious.
Terry Collins ordering a squeeze bunt and Ronny Cedeño executing it to two-nothing perfection…wunderbar!
David Wright…superlatives implied.
So many marvelous morsels to chew on for eight innings of reasonably robust New York Mets baseball, yet the whole night felt like one of those overlong prerace shows with which NBC fills two hours in advance of the Kentucky Derby, a.k.a. “the most exciting two minutes in sports”. Except we weren’t sipping mint juleps. More likely we were questioning our decision to not install a home oxygen bar as the ninth approached.
Make way for the most stressful three outs in baseball. Make way for this year’s model of the Mets closer whom none of us trusts, even if none of us can come up with a definitively better long-term solution besides “closers are overrated” and/or “FUCK!”
Make way for Frank Francisco, one day after The Weekend That Was for the latest in an endless line of recriminations and misgivings where short Met leads and long ninth innings are concerned. While in Miami, Francisco undid whatever goodwill he rustled up from saving three consecutive games a week earlier…which in turn helped us forget how bad he looked a couple of times in the middle of April…which blotted out the image of him registering three saves in the Mets’ first three wins of the year.
Somebody’s a little streaky here. It could be Frank or it could be us as fans. Whichever, the race was on in the top of the ninth to get the Mets’ 3-0 lead safely in the paddock. Who would cross the finish line first? The Mets? The Brewers? Our and Collins’s trust in Francisco? The closer’s reputation, or at least the one that earned him his lucrative contract?
Enough prerace yak. The ninth inning gate is lifted…and he’s off!
Ryan Braun singles to start the ninth. It isn’t the most encouraging of indicators, but it was Braun, who almost won a batting title in 2011 (but didn’t). Not the end of the world.
All right, deep breath, settle down, it’s just one baserunner.
Braun takes off for second essentially unimpeded. Safe.
That’s not good, either, but that’s what that insurance run in the eighth was for. Breathe.
Aramis Ramirez grounds out uneventfully. Good man, I can’t believe I’m saying — about Ramirez, I mean. He gives Frank a breather, just like he gave us that insurance run by dropping the ball in the rundown that didn’t run down Wright. I’m still mad at Ramirez for working a critical leadoff walk versus Dave Mlicki in 1998 when he was an 0-for-19 rookie, but his grounder to short is helpful in the here and now.
Another breath. Not as deep. Not as stressed out.
Corey Hart singles Braun home. Oh, that’s not good. Earlier Hart looked more pissed about a called strike three than even Francisco could have gesticulated when he didn’t get his strikes called on Sunday. So now it’s 3-1, and sating Hart isn’t doing any good for my heart.
Tying run up. Just ’cause bad things happened Friday and yesterday doesn’t mean they’re predestined. Prince Fielder’s not with this Crew anymore. Just breathe.
Taylor Green, whose existence is news to me this night, introduces himself a little better with a walk on a three-two pitch. Tying run on first, go-ahead run coming to the plate.
WHERE’D THEY GET THIS GUY FROM? FRANK FRANCISCO, I MEAN! I KNOW WHERE THEY GOT HIM FROM, BUT “FREE AGENT MARKET AFTER RELATIVELY SUCCESSFUL AMERICAN LEAGUE CAREER” WON’T DO IT RHETORICALLY! WHERE’D THEY GET THIS GUY FROM?
Brooks Conrad, notorious for his hands of stone as a Brave, is up. He manages to hold on to his bat as strike three is called for the second out. It might upset Corey Hart standing over there on second, but all we care abut is soothing Frank Francisco. And ourselves.
Breathe, man. Make like Faith Hill and just breathe.
George Kottaras is the next batter, and on a two-one count, he lifts a fly ball to what appears no man’s land.
FUCK! FUCKING FRANCISCO! FUCK! I CAN’T PUT IT ANY MORE PLAINLY THAN THAT!
I should note it appears that way because I have the TV in my office set up at such angle that if I’m sitting at my desk, as I was, I can’t see the right third of the screen. It’s not a good way to judge fly balls that weren’t really heading for no man’s land — just Lucas Duda’s able glove after a brief trot.
So the Mets won and Francisco saved, placed, showed and didn’t spit the bit whatsoever. Our confidence in our closer, renewable via a perpetual series of 24-hour options, is bolstered for literally another day.
Normal breathing may resume.